For anyone who appreciates the unspoiled beauty and sublime authenticity of Katama Farm, I have troubling news. AT&T wants to demolish the farm’s two working silos and erect one taller, fake silo. The fake silo’s sole purpose would be to house 5G base antennae. AT&T would also sublease space to other mobile carriers. Because AT&T’s plan is so at odds with the character and purpose of Katama Farm, the town of Edgartown and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission should reject this unnecessary “mainlandification” of one of the most preservation-worthy places on the Island.

Eight years ago, AT&T signed a lease with the town to install a cellular antenna on top of the farm’s existing silos (62 feet and 63 feet tall). Prior to signing the lease, AT&T apparently did not conduct its due diligence to determine whether the existing silos could support the weight of the installation. AT&T did nothing for several years, only to later learn that the silos could not bear the weight.

AT&T’s proposed fix is to completely demolish the two farm silos and erect a taller (100 feet with the antenna) structure it calls a “stealth” silo. A more accurate name would be a fake silo because it admittedly serves no agricultural or farming purpose whatsoever. AT&T also proposes to sublease space in its fake silo to other mobile carriers thereby using the farm as a revenue source. For decades, town leaders, town residents, and conservation groups have actively protected the Katama plains and the farm land from non-agricultural commercialization. Katama Farm was originally gifted to the town and zoned for agricultural and town purposes. It is a real farm with real silos and real livestock and real farmers. The silos stand as iconic sentinels in the Katama skyline, reminding us that this Island still retains some vestige of the “old Vineyard” and its agricultural heritage. AT&T’s fake silo would be one more sad example of the chipping away at that heritage.

AT&T says that its fake silo will benefit the town by expanding 5G service in the area. But a comparison of AT&T’s existing coverage map with the projected coverage map shows only a marginal expansion of service. The expanded coverage area would primarily cover the vast farmland plain which is exclusively inhabited by cows, sheep, goats, chickens, and thousands of birds who have little use for 5G. The expanded service area will also cover some stretches of private coastline on both sides of Katama Bay — but those homes already have access to 5G via land-based WiFi - and also a section of South Beach between right and left forks. Make no mistake, there is already sufficient existing cell phone coverage for calls and texts in these sections of Katama and there is no issue regarding the need for 5G to enhance emergency services. AT&T’s fake silo would merely extend existing 5G coverage to these three sections of Katama that don’t really need it. Must we tear down the farm silos so that visitors can stream movies or post videos from South Beach?

It is not too late to stop the fake silo. In order to proceed, AT&T must first get approval from the town and the MVC. Because this proposal is so antithetical to the conservation and agricultural purposes of Katama Farm, I oppose the fake silo plan and urge our planning board and the MVC to do the same. There must be some other town land (the old dump?) where AT&T can erect a stealth 5G tower. Katama Farm should be spared this abomination.

Jonathan Sweet and Johanna Hynes