The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 15, 2001


'Stealth pine tree' may sprout in Carlisle

The full board of appeals (BOA), chaired by Terry Herndon, held yet another meeting on the proposed Nextel wireless communications facility at 1 River Road on Wednesday evening, June 6. The proposed 100-foot tower, which requires a number of variances by the BOA, would be built to look like a pine tree. The outcome of the evening meeting was yet another continuance, to September 6, requested by the applicant Nextel and co-locator Sprint, as the waters were muddied again by the possibility of an alternate new site, at 662 Bedford Road.

The property at 662 Bedford Road, owned by David Duren, is leased by AT&T, but not yet available to Nextel and Sprint. While they are still open to co-locating on a possible AT&T tower, spokespersons Bill Proia of Nextel and attorney Travis Corder of Sprint, continued to make the case for siting their tower at the River Road location because it was the only site available to them at this time.

Nextel began this application process in 1999. Previously, the BOA had denied the application without prejudice until two oil tanks could be removed from the River Road site. Carlisle has also in this time changed its bylaws regarding telecommunication constructions, putting the decision in the planning board's hands and changing the siting requirements. Current bylaws prohibit siting of a wireless tower within 900 feet of a residential structure and require that the distance to a lot line must be 1.5 times the height of a pole. The River Road site fails both these requirements, as the Booth residence is only 185 feet from the proposed site, and the three lot lines are only 83, 69, and 134 feet away.

Cell tower bylaws 'prohibitive'

Both Proia and Corder insisted that there were no other available or possible sites in Carlisle to put their tower, and that these restrictions imposed by the new bylaws are prohibitive. Proia summarized Nextel's alternate site analysis which, he said, looked carefully at 23 sites from a radio frequency and a zoning point of view. He said that "he couldn't find a property that didn't need dimensional relief -- at a minimum we would need 2 1/4 acres."

Sprint also claimed that no other site is available. They have slightly different requirements, as their radio frequency has a shorter range. They claimed to have examined 140 sites, but all were ruled out based on the 900-foot setback, and lot line requirements. Corder cited the 1996 telecommunications act which states that towns must enable communications companies to establish viable networks. He even provided the board with copies of a lawsuit, AT&T vs. Concord, in which a federal court held that Concord's 1,000-foot setback bylaw was a prohibition.

150-foot 'pine tree' possible

At the last hearing, in April, Nextel submitted a letter regarding the possibility of AT&T obtaining a permit for construction of a tower at 662 Bedford Road. At that time, no application had been made, and the meeting was continued. As of Wednesday night, still no application had been made. However, Carrie Fitzsimmons, spokesperson for American Tower Corporation, attended the meeting and announced, "The deal on this site is not official, but American Tower has every intent to take over this site from AT&T and file by the end of the month." Their intention is to file an application to build a six-carrier facility, anchored by AT&T. The new tower would be 150 feet tall, and also designed as a "stealth pine tree."

Both Sprint and Nextel would find that site acceptable, if the new site were to gain the necessary permits. Both company spokespeople also suggested to the board that the town impose conditions on American Tower such that their companies would have access to it without imposing "extortion-lease" rates. Sprint's Corder asked for "commercial reasonableness so co-location can be accomplished."

BOA member Hal Sauer asked if the Bedford Road site would require fewer variances. Bill Proia said that given the size of the tower and the location of the site, it would need the same type of variances that the River Road site requires. The difference, he said, is that the Bedford Road site is "more aesthetically pleasing because it is set back from the main thoroughfare."

Lawsuit possible

In discussing possible outcomes, Proia said that if the board's decision were to deny the necessary variances, Nextel would file a lawsuit because they feel the 900-foot setback is prohibitive. He continued, "Once the other tower [AT&T] got approved, we would probably pull back our law suit." Corder, representing Sprint, expressed a similar sentiment.

Town counsel Paul DeRensis reminded the board that the burden of proof that there is no other site is on the applicant. This, he felt, had not been established.

Late in the evening, board chair Terry Herndon said wearily,"This could go on forever, and I don't like it. I would like to see some kind of proposal, so I don't have to see this every month."

With the motion to continue requested and accepted, the board, with more than a little déjà vu, adjourned.

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