Friday, November 5, 1999
Voters overwhelmingly approve new cell tower bylaw
Paul Gill of the wireless communications advisory committee (WCAC), presented highlights of Warrant Article 3 to voters at the Town Meeting before relinquishing the podium to Don Allen, architect of the new bylaw. Article 3 amended the zoning bylaws of the town by deleting the current three-year-old communications bylaw, Section 5.9, and replacing it with a new wireless communications bylaw. Voters had called for a six-month moratorium by a vote of 166-7 at the spring Town Meeting. Allen had the unenviable task of leading voters through the 15-page bylaw and explaining all of the amendments made since the two public hearings held on October 12 and 25.
The most notable change is a requirement that new personal wireless service facility towers shall be of the "stealth" monopole type only. A stealth monopole tower is designed to be visually unobtrusive. Examples are monopole towers disguised as trees and as flagpoles. Although planning board member Michael Abend warned voters that the latest amendments have not been reviewed by the board, the "stealth" requirement is the result of strong input from member Dan Holzman at the October 25 hearing.
Selectman Doug Stevenson described the proposed bylaw as "a significant improvement over the existing bylaw." Margaret Franklin of East Street, and legal representative for Sprint, was not as impressed. "Are there any sites in town that meet these new requirements?" she asked. Although the WCAC hasn't surveyed the town, Gill assured her that "there are lots of lots." Gill had previously avoided identifying specific sites, preferring that the telecoms do their own homework. George Reichenbach of West Street wondered how many towers the town might need. Although the WCAC hadn't addressed any specifics, Gill chuckled that "It's not 100somewhere between one and ten."
Just as the discussion was dying and moderator Marshall Simonds was prepared to call for a vote, Holzman, who works in the telecommunications industry, decided that he was still not satisfied with the "stealth" initiative. He proposed a lengthy amendment which would allow a new facility or repeater to be installed in any existing building and kicked off a whole new round of debate. In response to a question from selectman Michael Fitzgerald, Holzman clarified that the 900-foot setback requirement would not apply to these "hidden facilities," which would most likely be installed in a church steeple or municipal building. "You can't locate an antenna 900 feet from a building when it's inside the building," he reasoned.
Holzman saw a handful of installations as being adequate to serve the town and the ideal location for these facilities as the town center. "Two churches and a municipal building would cover the town." Hearing groans from the audience, Holzman reminded voters that there are presently five antennas in the town center at the fire and police stations and on the school roof, "and nobody objects to them."
Gill didn't accept this and responded that Holzman's proposal was contrary to the WCAC opinion. "Dan wants to bring wireless facilities right into the town center. This is an affront and produces a stigma on the center of town," warned Gill. Wayne Davis of Concord Street objected to using that as a line of reasoning when drafting a bylaw. Bob Turley of Concord Street disagreed with Davis and declared, "by taking away the 900-foot setback, people in the center will be second class citizens." Ron O'Reilly of Bedford Road drew a round of applause when he asked, "How close do we allow antennas to come to people?"
Simonds signaled for a decision and Holzman's amendment carried by a majority vote. Simonds viewed the amended amendment with some misgivings as to whether voters understood the revised bylaw, but this didn't seem to deter anyone in the audience. He then called for final resolution of Article 3 and the proposed wireless communications bylaw was approved by a vote of 340-7.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito