Friday, September 19, 2003
New committee to evaluate cell tower options
On September 9 the Carlisle Board of Selectmen discussed the report, "Evaluation of Wireless Facility Demands in Carlisle, Massachusetts," with members of the Planning Board. The consulting firm, Broadcast Signal Lab, LLP, was hired by the Planning Board to prepare the report. Two Selectmen will join representatives of the Planning Board, Conservation Commission and Carlisle School Committee to form an ad hoc committee which will meet over the coming weeks.
Copies of the report can be read on the town's web site at carlisle.org/wirelessreport/. The report is also available for purchase at Town Hall, and will soon be available at the library.
More sites, smaller towers
The report, delivered at the end of June, added new ideas to the town's discussion on cell towers. Earlier, wireless communications representatives had emphasized a need for between one and three cell towers in town, usually using large towers that could each support multiple carriers. This report recommends using smaller, 70-90 foot "stealth monopoles" which support one carrier each, but can be hidden inside cupolas or built to resemble large flagpoles. More sites (up to six) are needed if small towers are used, and more than one monopole is required at each site to support the half-dozen wireless communication companies in the area.
Towers on school property?
The report also takes a fresh look at placing cell towers on the school property, which is located on a hill in the center of town. When people questioned the health hazards associated with adding cell towers on school grounds, background information was given by Planning Board member Dan Holzman who has expertise in the field of cell tower design. Using the school grounds is a controversial idea, he said, but is safer than most people would expect. He explained that for digital cell phone, or PCS towers, the signal dispersion can be controlled through the tower's design. The signal is aimed primarily horizontally, not downward. "In my experience, it never comes close to the federal threshold," he said.
Holzman noted that "whip" antennas disperse the signal more spherically, and this type of antenna is already installed on the school for the use of the police and fire departments.
Studying the options
The report lists land in town that meets the current cell tower bylaw, as well as sites that would be suitable technically but would require variances or bylaw changes. On page 17 of the report, four different options for cell tower placement are suggested (see table reproduced below.) The goal of the ad hoc committee is to determine the best plan, and how to ensure that construction of cell towers is in chosen areas.
Holzman suggested defining an overlay district. Similar to commercial zoning, an overlay district would delineate those areas where cell towers could be located. This can be used in conjunction with other bylaw restrictions on cell towers, such as setback requirements. The town of Harvard uses this idea.
From the audience, both Larry Barton and Kerry Kissinger urged the committee to use a "step-wise approach" to building cell towers, requiring that the town assess the results after each tower is built before allowing more construction.
© 2003 The