Friday, April 16, 1999
Cell tower moratorium draws unanimous support from planning board
At the April 12 planning board hearing, Paul Gill of Judy Farm Road spoke in support of his petition to establish a six-month moratorium on the granting of special permits for wireless communication facilities. Gill seeks to add subparagraph 126.96.36.199 to zoning bylaw section 5.9 — Commercial Wireless Communication Facilities stating, "A moratorium on the granting of permits for wireless communications facilities by the Zoning Board of Appeals shall apply for a period of six (6) months."
The moratorium would allow for townspeople to perform a comprehensive study of the technical proposals submitted to the town by wireless communications companies and to participate in a two-way dialog with the board of appeals and any other town groups that will review and evaluate proposals. Gill maintains that the dialog will afford abutters and non-abutters alike the opportunity to assess the anticipated multi-faceted impact of wireless communications facilities on their town, properties, and families.
Gill displayed a chart summarizing some of the recent proposals which have been submitted for cell towers on town-owned land and explained their inadequacies. "They lack comprehensive site plans, substantive impact statements, engineering detail, and even fundamental data (tower height = TBD)," explained Gill. "These proposals present a complex system engineering problem and require a comprehensive analysis."
Proposals for cell towers
Company Height Users Location
Edwards and Kelcey 2@100 4 Conant
Omnipoint 170' 3 Conant
Sprint TBD 10 Conant
TBD 10 Banta-Davis
Nextel 140' 3 Banta-Davis
140' 3 Foss Farm
AT&T PCS 190' 4? Foss Farm
190' 4? DPW Yard
NLS Group 190' 5 DPW Yard
Gill related stories from the surrounding towns of Concord and Lincoln and believes many people in Carlisle are still uninformed on the impact of cell towers. "They need to understand the risks to the rural character of Carlisle and to their own neighborhoods in order to avoid surprises later on," he warned. "Visual clutter, risk to property value, and physical hazards such as falling ice are major issues for residents."
Advisory committee proposed
Gill recommends that the town form a Wireless Communications Facility (WCF) Advisory Committee consisting of citizens/volunteers with strong engineering representation, both radio frequency (RF) and civil. This would operate similarly to the cable TV advisory committee and would recommend bylaw changes and review telecom siting proposals. They would also conduct fact-finding as appropriate and make siting recommendations to the selectmen.
"The town should commission an independent radio frequency engineer who will act impartially," continued Gill. The engineer would evaluate detailed design submittals, confirm alleged "holes" in coverage, and monitor operations once begun. The engineer's fee would be paid by the telecoms.
Some of the candidates for the WCF zoning bylaw revisions might include setback from residences, tower height, telecom-paid monitoring provisions, and noise pollution. "Although cell towers are not perceived as noisy, some sites include a back-up diesel generator," Gill explained. He concluded his presentation by asking the town to vote for a moratorium at the May 4 Town Meeting.
Dana Booth of River Road spoke briefly in support of Gill's petition with the added incentive of knowing that the town's first cell tower may be located next door to him at 1 River Road. Regarding a claim that Carlisle already has 70 percent coverage for such communications, member Kate Reid chuckled, "I'm on Carleton Road and our coverage is zippity-do-da." Planning Board chair Tara Hengeveld asked, "Is six months [moratorium] enough?" Zoning changes are made once per year and after the May 4 Town Meeting, the next one is a year away. Gill sees a fine line between a short moratorium and lawsuits if the town delays too long.
Planning administrator George Mansfield said his conversations with town counsel revealed that short moratoriums are presently being approved by the state attorney general's office. "The challenge to moratoriums is more from industry than the state," he said. "A short moratorium is not worth the expense to fight, but phone companies may choose legal action if the delay is extensive."
No one in the room was prepared to speak in favor of cell towers. Thus it was left to member Dan Holzman to dramatically end the discussion. "I design cell towers," he said. "That's my job. It's a business. We'll give you whatever you want. A cell tower that looks like a Christmas tree. A flagpole. Church steeple. You decide." He described the various telecoms as eager to cooperate with the towns and willing to compromise in order to add lucrative cellular service. "There is only one thing that they won't listen to," concluded Holzman with a dramatic flourish. "The only thing they won't listen to is 'No.'"
The board then voted unanimously to recommend Gill's petition, suggesting that the moratorium be extended to 12 months instead of the original six, if town counsel approved.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito