Friday, March 10, 2000
Resident signs lease for cell tower; AT&T prepares application for Bedford Road
The same resident who struck fear into the hearts of residents and neighbors almost four years ago when he talked of constructing a cell towers is at it againonly this time, the plans seem more definite. In a telephone interview, longtime resident Dave Duren of 662 Bedford Road explained that he had signed a lease with AT&T Wireless so they can construct a 150-foot unlighted monopole on the rear of his Bedford Road property, behind the auto repair shop. The carrier is now in the process of compiling application materials and plans to submit them to the planning board and board of appeals within the next couple of weeks.
"I'm doing this as much for myself and neighbors because if they didn't build it on my property, it would be across the street or down the street," Duren reasoned, saying he'd rather have it behind him than have it visible from Bedford Road. Convinced that cell towers will be coming to town one way or another, he pointed out that on his property, the facility would be 900 to 1,000 feet from Bedford Road, "there is good high and low screening and all the infrastructure is therewe don't have to cut or plant a tree." According to Duren, the monopole would be over 100 feet from all lot lines and structures and AT&T has had experts in to make sure it's 100 feet from the wetlands.
However, this site does not comply with the town's new bylaws which require wireless communications facilities to be 900 feet from all structures. Since Duren signed a lease with AT&T Wireless, it is that corporation, with deep pockets, that will file the application and be prepared to do battle with the town. Tom Schnorr of AT&T explained that the proposed monopole location will be 250 to 300 feet from the closest structure on an abutter's property. Looking at the entire town and drawing a circle 900 feet from all structures, Schnorr contended that there were "few, if any" possible sites which would comply with the new regulations. Due to the non-compliance, he said AT&T will need to receive a variance from the board of appeals in addition to the special permit from the planning board. Describing this as a "cumbersome, lengthy process," he acknowledged that the carrier faces a number of challenges.
At the suggestion that such obstacles might be viewed positively by persons who would prefer not to have cell towers in town, Schnorr claimed that "it's hypocritical" of people who use cell phones to want the necessary facilities only in other towns. Also, although he said repeatedly the carrier wants to work cooperatively with town residents and boards, Schnorr pointed out that there are other remedies available. Although they have generally chosen not to, carriers can apply to the Department of Telecommunications and Energy to override local zoning. Also, while "it's in nobody's best interest" to do so, Shnorr pointed out that carriers can take their case to court. "If the bylaws, by terms and enforcement, pull up the drawbridge, saying no you can't get a permit, then carriers will have to look at other alternatives," Schnorr said.
Asked if they had considered town-owned sites, Schnorr said they had submitted bids on two sites last year when the selectmen solicited proposals. However, that process was halted due to the moratorium. He added that they had sent another letter of interest but the selectmen needed to request proposals if they want the facilities on town land. Even so, Schnorr pointed out that the new same setback issues on its other parcels.
AT&T officials are now in the process of compiling what they believe are the appropriate submission requirements. The specific requirements were deleted from the last draft of the town's new bylaw with the intention that they would be included in the planning board's rules and regulations. However, the new regulations have not been approved so AT&T is working on a "best guess" at what is needed. Schnorr seems well aware that the process will include facing some tough opposition from residents, particularly abutters.
A few years ago, it was objections from neighbors which prompted Duren to back down from his cell tower plans. Now, with the new bylaw which does not limit wireless facilities to commercially-zoned properties, he claimed it could go on a more visible residential lot. Duren contended that wherever towers are constructed, neighbors will object, but "mine is the best spot with the best coverage and best at protecting the surrounding neighborhood."
Duren hopes that committees and local officials will work with AT&T officials. "Otherwise, they'll go the next step," he pointed out, "if they don't get it [approval] on the local level."
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito