The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 9, 1999


Board of appeals delays decision on River Road cellular tower

Digital cellular communication may come to Carlisle eventually, but it won't happen immediately. If the selectman and town residents can have their way, it won't happen until they've had a chance to vocalize their opinions.

The Carlisle Board of Appeals confronted a technically- and emotionally-charged issue on April 1 when Nextel Communications proposed to install a 100-foot monopole at One River Road, a commercially-zoned property owned by Renfroe Realty Trust. Nextel brought a crew of five representatives to address the technical issues; Carlisle residents filled the room to present their concerns.

Board chair, Midge Eliassen, opened the proceedings by informing Nextel that the property was currently in violation of a board of health statute and it had to remove an underground oil tank. Nextel understood that the oil tank issue could impact their plans for the site, but elected to continue with the application.

Nextel addressed the board with the following materials in support of its request for a special permit:

· Site plans

· Existing radio frequency grid maps

· Proposed radio frequency grid maps

After the presentation, Eliassen recognized members of the audience who had comments and questions. Company representatives fielded many audience questions, but ran into difficulties when the setback measurements came under firespecifically, the alleged 253 feet from the nearest residence. Abutters were concerned that another residence on River Road was within 168 feet. Nextel claimed that 123 feet would distance the monopole from the street, however, residents and the board estimated the distance at 101 feet.

Hearing attendees speak out

Several Carlisle residents wondered about the bids which the selectmen had received in early March in response to their cellular communication facilities Request for Proposals (RFP) on town land.

Vivian Chaput, chair of the board of selectman, responded that they had received several proposals, but had not had the opportunity to compare and discuss the bids.

River Road residents asked what health problems the monopole might cause. Nextel responded that the Federal Communications Commission has ruled that a town cannot consider health issues in determining whether to issue a permit for a cellular tower. Others in the neighborhood questioned what impact perceived health problems or aesthetic concerns might have on their property values.

David Duren of Bedford Road asked rhetorically, "If you are going to put this on River Road [meeting the needs of only three vendors] and force the people living there to look at it, why not replace Lady Liberty in the rotary with something all the carriers [over a dozen] can use and have every one look at it?"

Attorney Patrick Toomey of Gadsby & Hannah LLP, representing the Fiedrichs of Bedford Road, emphasized the inaccurate setback measurements, as well as questioned the appropriateness in the change in business use of the property.

"I don't think this matter should be considered," said Pete Morey of Bedford Road. "The oil tank must be removed first, and the setback issues must be resolved."

Getting the facts straight

Board of appeals member and clerk Terry Herndon pointed out that Nextel blueprint scales were misleading, and that the company had not provided a comprehensive site plan with particulars, such as the location of the septic system, the well and the wetlands. Eliassen concurred that the materials needed revision. Nextel was also asked to identily the size and location of gaps in coverage for monopole heights ranging from 40 to 100 feet.

The board, with member Scott Batchelder and associate members Hal Sauer and Phyllis Zinicola also present, decided to postpone its decision on the proposal. The members scheduled a meeting for April 15 when Nextel can present its updated information. Due to the volume of discussion, the board also planned a subsequent meeting for April 29.

Chaput noted that the selectmen will also meet on April 15, and she hoped that they would then have time to review the cellular communications proposals for town land.

"We are required by state law to respond within 65 days once an application comes in," responded Eliassen. "We can adjourn a hearing due to an open issue when information is coming from the applicant, but we cannot wait for the information from other proposals you may be reviewing." Eliassen explained that the group of citizens who are requesting a six-month moratorium on tower construction at the May Town Meeting cannot delay processing of the Nextel application because the town already had a bylaw in place allowing for such facilities at the time their petition was submitted.

Other open issues

The board also delayed decisions on variances requested by two residents.

The first request came from Ted Bush of 64 West Street who wants to expand his garage from one bay to two. The garage would impinge six feet into the 40-foot side lot-line buffer requirement.

The second request came from Claudia Talland of 71 Cutters Ridge Road. Due to her lot's topography and wetland restrictions, she seeks relief from the rear lot-line requirement to build a swimming pool.

Three hours, three cases, and the board did not make any conclusive rulings. However, the board's willingness to increase the length and frequency of meetings will allow further input from the community.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito