Friday, December 12, 2003
BOS approves cell tower in center; asks for bylaw change
The Board of Selectmen reviewed the recommendations of the Wireless Facilities Plan Steering Committee (WFPSC) on cell tower placement at their meeting on Tuesday. Tom Lane of the Planning Board explained that the recent report by the Broadcast Signal Lab (BSL) was clear in its recommendation that a strong signal was needed in the center of town and that this meant either a tall tower on the Conant Land or a shorter facility at the school.
"The school site is best, said Lane. The school sits on a hill and so the tower itself could be shorter and the hill itself is then not an obstacle to the signal. The WFPSC thus decided that a practical first step in developing a wireless network to cover the town was to incorporate a cell tower into the school campus. They felt that as long as the school department benefits in some way from the use of the site, such as receiving a percentage of leasing revenues or gaining capital improvements at the time of installation, they would support the proposal.
The WFPSC believes that starting in the town center makes sense because most of the potential sites are town-owned. If a central location were to cover a larger area than anticipated, additional towers might be unnecessary. This prompted the committee to zero-in on a single strategy - the center of town. They hope that, even though the school location might prove to be controversial, the positive attributes of the school location from revenue and coverage standpoints will lead to strong support from the community.
The committee also determined that the current bylaw is unnecessarily restrictive and needs to be loosened if the town is to provide reasonable opportunities for wireless providers to offer effective wireless coverage. Looking back at the original bylaw with its 900 foot cell tower setback, Selectman John Ballantine observed that, "We were working in a vacuum. Now we have more experience, better information. Maybe a 500 foot setback is better now." Treasurer Larry Barton offered an alternative. "Why not establish a zone, apply setbacks in that zone, and leave the rest [of the town] alone?" he offered.
Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie assured those present that a bylaw change would have to be approved at Town Meeting. The Selectmen then approved the recommendation for a cell tower in the center of town and requested that the Planning Board pursue what bylaw changes are necessary.
© 2003 The