The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 9, 2001


Board of appeals prepares for cell tower application

Sometimes the real news doesn't even make the agenda. Last Thursday the Carlisle Board of Appeals (BOA) heard only one case from a town resident regarding a lot-line variance (see below). However, a half-dozen people were on hand to find out how the board would prepare for its next meeting, on Thursday, March 1, when it will hear a request by Nextel Communications for a dimensional variance for the installation of a communications monopole at 1 River Road.

The owner of the property, the trustees of New River Road Realty Trust, has appointed Nextel as its agent during the application process. Nextel requires a dimensional variance to install a 100-foot monopole on the premises. Nextel spokespeople were not available to comment on the particulars prior to press time.

If granted the variance, the company plans to co-locate services for Sprint PCS at 90 feet on the monopole. Co-location enables companies to share a site, thereby minimizing the number of structures required in a town. After the proposed installation, maintenance personnel will need to visit the site once or twice a month.

Board member Midge Eliassen summarized the results of Nextel's prior application in 1999 for installation of a communications monopole at the same location. The extended hearing process took three months. At the same time, the board of Health required the property owners to remove an existing oil tank. The BOA denied the Nextel application "without prejudice," meaning that the applicant could reapply after resolution of the health hazard. Eliassen called the ruling "wise" as the tank had leaked and required a long clean-up process. In the interim, the town adopted a new set of bylaws that put telecommunications construction under the jurisdiction of the planning board. The current Nextel application asks the BOA for a variance under the new bylaw, prior to applying for a permit from the planning board.

Based on court battles in neighboring towns of Concord and Lincoln with telecommunications providers, the BOA immediately requested the involvement of town counsel. In Concord on January 12 a federal judge allowed AT&T to install two towers, at the Middlesex School and at the Mobil station on Route 2, overturning August 1999 denials by the Concord BOA. Nonetheless, the court did not find that Concord's wireless communications bylaw, which restricts cell tower sites to the Route 2 corridor, violated the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Board Chair Terry Herndon stressed the need for all board members to attend the March 1 hearing. In the case of a continuance, at least three of the same board members must be present to rule on the case. BOA associate member Shann Kerner plans to attend, however,since her husband works as a consultant to American Towers, Inc., a competing telecommunications company, the board may require her to recuse herself from this particular case.

Members of the BOA would not discuss the application prior to the hearing. Under the Freedom of Information laws, however, interested parties may review the Nextel application at the town clerk's office.

Lowell Street setback denied

The BOA denied the year's first application for a lot-line variance by resident Peter Faber of 682 Lowell St. Faber proposed to install a mudroom and a garage at the side of his house that would extend into the mandated 40-foot setback by 11 feet. Faber would like a 10-foot-wide mudroom to avoid covering up windows needed for house ventilation and light.

Herndon reminded Faber that the board could only grant variances in cases where there are topography constraints or substantial financial hardship caused by these constraints. The chair did not believe this situation met the requirements, or that the applicant had exhausted all other possibilities, for example, removing the mudroom, building only a one-car garage or an unusual two-car configuration, relocating the garage to the front of the house, or working out a land swap or easement with the neighbor.

In conclusion, the board unanimously decided to deny the application. Findings included:

· Applicant did not demonstrate topological hardship circumstances.

· Applicant can investigate land swap or easement option with neighbor.

· Alternate locations and configurations exist that would not require a variance.

· Existing plans for both garage and mudroom require substantial intrusion into the setback.

The board has clarified that it will not grant variances in 2001 unless all other options are exhausted. Future applicants take note.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito