The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 7, 1999


Board of appeals denies River Road cell tower

On April 29, Nextel's project manager George Chiannis appeared before the board of appeals in the Town Hall planning to walk out with a continuation of the controversial cell tower hearing. Results from a geotechnical investigation that would determine the structure of the proposed tower's foundation had been requested at the previous meeting of the board. Though such investigations, being costly, were not usually provided by Nextel until permits were issued, the company had agreed to the board's request to have the investigation done, with results available for the April 29 meeting. However, the results for this test, as well as requested information regarding environmental impact, were delayed, and so Nextel asked for a continuance. After nearly two hours of deliberation by the board, a vote was taken as to whether to grant this request or not. The result: to deny without prejudice Nextel's application for a cell tower at 1 River Road.

In the end, the board based their decision on several factors and Nextel's failure to supply requested information by a given date had only minimal bearing on the decision. Of major importance were the two underground oil tanks at the site, which are in violation of a town bylaw. Despite the fact that Renfroe Realty Trust, the owners of the site, have been in the process of working towards removal of the tanks, their very presence, according to the board, made the site, and by association Nextel's application, "unclean" and not in compliance with town regulations.

Nextel had been informed even before the original April 1 hearing that a letter from the board of health indicated that the site was not compliant. Asked whether they wished to proceed regardless of this, Nextel chose to go ahead with the application.

Because evidence of contamination from leakage has been found when tanks were removed from other sites, the board was reluctant to grant a continuance until some time in the distant future when the site was certified clean. Though the tanks are scheduled to be removed by June 30, that date, like the town's mandated deadline for removal by December 31 of last year, is not reassurance that the site will be clean at that time. Cleanliness, soil contamination, conservation and board of health issues, maintained the board, were foremost concerns for which the applicant could not guarantee resolution.

Sometimes, applicants are granted approvals based on contingencies of approval by the board of health, conservation committee or other boards. This case was distinguished from other cases, according to the board of appeals, because Nextel was informed, at the outset of the hearing process, that the site was not in compliance with important town regulations regarding the oil tanks, and still chose to proceed.

In choosing to deny without prejudice Nextel's application, as opposed to granting a continuance, which project manager George Chiannis would have strongly preferred, the board of appeals made a strong statement about the potential contamination problems at the River Road site. It addressed the fact that Nextel was unable to offer a date by which the site would be clean, because of ongoing issues with the conservation commission and other boards. A denial without prejudice means that sometime in the distant future, if and when the River Road site receives a clean bill of health from all relevant local boards, Nextel may resubmit an application for a cell tower there. Proceedings would be re-opened, and though the board was concerned about another round with an emotional public should Nextel decide to reapply, they decided denial without prejudice was the cleaner way to handle the termination of the application.

Despite some original opinions in favor of a continuance based on the fact that it would keep the ball in the board's court regarding setting future hearing dates, at the end, a unanimous vote in favor of denial without prejudice was reached. "It's money for you; it's our town for us," one board member told Chiannis during the meeting.

At the end of the evening, a tentatively relieved abutter, Mary Friedrich, showed the Mosquito a picture of a view from the proposed site into her living room window. Clearly, she agreed.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito