Friday, September 14, 2001
American Tower proposes a 'monopine' on Bedford Rd. Facility could accommodate six cellular companies
A standing-room-only crowd of more than 40 abutters and neighbors from Stony Gate and Canterbury Court appeared at the September 6 meeting of the Carlisle Board of Appeals to hear the American Tower Corporation (ATC) apply for variances to site a cellular tower on the Duren property at 662 Bedford Road. The proposed facility could accommodate as many as six cellular companies on its pole.
Board chair Terry Herndon opened the hearing on the proposed Nextel wireless communication facility at 1 River Road. The hearing was continued from the June 6 meeting, when the possibility of an alternate tower being located at the Bedford Road site was broached. Spokesperson Patrick Nysten of Nextel immediately asked the board to either continue his company's request, or withdraw the Nextel petition without prejudice, in light of the ATC application. The board voted unanimously to grant a withdrawal without prejudice, allowing the petitioners to come back immediately, rather than wait a required two years when the board votes no to requested variances.
Katie Donovan, representative of the American Tower Corporation, presented their case to the board of appeals. The major gap in coverage, that all cellular companies are experiencing in Carlisle, is located near the Bedford side of Route 225. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 calls for towns to provide access to telecommunication companies so that they may have nationwide seamless coverage. Donovan reported that the company is committed to co-location one major tower on which all or most of the competing companies would locate their equipment. She reported that six companies would probably be located at this tower, with ATT, the original company to develop a lease at this site, located at the top. The other companies mentioned were Sprint, Nextel, Voice Stream, and possibly Verizon.
She explained that her company has 14,000 towers of various sorts in the country. ATC has the rights to the property and proposes building a 150-foot tower, called a monopine, a stealth type of tower, that is camouflaged to look like a giant pine tree.
Donovan advocated for this site, saying that it has existing tree cover and is off the road, so as to not be as noticeable as the site at 1 River Road. Questioned by the board about the company's safety record, she insisted that a monopole has never fallen. She said they are built to endure tornadoes, which they have experienced, without a failure. Questioned about upkeep, they said they are serviced on a monthly basis, and any repairs are made to ensure the quality of the pole and the ground equipment.
Three variances sought
However, three variances are necessary to locate at this site. The current Carlisle bylaws prohibit the siting of a wireless tower within 900 feet of a residential structure and include the requirement that the distance to the lot line must be 1.5 times the height of a pole. A third requirement is a setback requirement from the lot line. American Tower is looking for relief for three sideline requirements, in addition to the 900-foot requirement, and the 1.5-times-the-height requirement. The final siting decision will be made by the planning board, but the initial variances are within the purview of the board of appeals.
Abutters not reassured
The abutters and neighbors of the proposed tower were there to voice their strong opinion that those variances not be given. The reassurances of safety and lack of visibility did not ease the objections of those present.
Twenty residences would be impacted. The closest abutter is Kerlin Pei, at 97 Stony Gate. He reported that the tower is 115 feet to his property line, and his house is within 220 feet. Maggie Elmuts, an 18-year resident of Carlisle, said that her house was 156 feet from the lot line, and identified the view from her kitchen window in a photo presented by the petitioners The photos simulated what the monopole would look like from different perspectives.
The petitioners insisted that although other sites were investigated, no other is available to site their equipment that would conform to the 900 foot distance of pole to residence. This is the reason, they said, that they need relief from the board. Although Foss Farm was mentioned as being in the right geographical area, it apparently has been taken out of the discussion by the conservation commission. Chairman Herndon reported that complicating the Foss Farm siting is the fact that the land was purchased in part with federal money. Herndon remarked that although the federal government (through the telecommunications Act of 1992) insists that towns must enable communications companies to establish viable networks, they make it impossible to use their land.
No decisions were made, and the meeting was continued to October 2.
Heidi and Vaughn Harring of West Street successfully petitioned the board for permission to build a 2,075-foot addition to their existing home which is built on a non-conforming lot. The house located at the corner of Acton and West Streets is located within 40 feet of the road, and so requires a variance. "This petition is identical in nature to others that the board has also approved," said board member Midge Eliassen.
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