The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 12, 1999


Town receives first cell tower application

The clock was ticking and everyone knew it. On March 4, the town received its first application from Nextel Communications of Mid-Atlantic, Inc. to build a cellular communications tower at 1 River Road, a commercially-zoned property owned by Renfroe Realty Trust.

On April 1, the board of appeals will consider the application for a 100-foot monopole with 12 antennas. According to the town's bylaw, it is the role of the board to determine whether the special permit should be granted and what requirements, if any, should be placed on the installation.

Prepared to face the new challenge, board of appeals chair Midge Eliassen commented, "Obviously this will come under the bylaw we passed in May, 1997. This will be our first application and we'll all have a lot to learn."

Town receives nine proposals

In January, predicated on the belief that the construction of cell towers in town was inevitable and the use of town land afforded an opportunity to generate revenue and control their placement, the town had actively solicited proposals from communications companies, listing the potential town sites as the Banta-Davis Land on Bedford Road, Foss Farm on Bedford Road, Gage Woodlot on Ember Lane (subsequently deleted from the list), Conant Land on Westford Street and department of public works yard off Lowell Street.

By March 4, the town had received nine proposals from six different communications companies. By the end of the month, the town administrator plans to weigh and evaluate the proposals. He will make a recommendation and the selectmen will determine which, if any, of the proposals will be accepted.

Town's bylaw

The bylaw, which was drafted to regulate the aesthetics and construction of commercial wireless communications facilities, stipulates that such structures shall be located on land owned by the town, a nonprofit organization or in the business district. In addition, the bylaw stipulates that only freestanding monopoles, not higher than 190 feet, are allowed. They must be set back as far from the lot lines as they are high and lighting is prohibited unless the Federal Aviation Administration requires it.

Service providers have been willing, in other locations, to spend a fair sum to camouflage towers and minimize their visibility. For example, AT&T's "faux tree" tower off Brown Road can be seen from Route 495 southbound on the Harvard-Bolton line. From the company's standpoint, the cost for such screening is weighed against the potential legal and intangible public relations costs associated with conflicts as well as lost revenue generated by the site during the delay.

While residents may be rooting for denial by the board of appeals, it should be noted that according to the Telecommunications Act, the Federal Communications Commission is instructed to insure that state and local zoning boards do not unreasonably delay the construction of towers or the approval of sites.

It took a while for cellular communications companies to find Carlisle, but the alarm has sounded and it seems impossible for the town to reset the clock.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito