Friday, July 15, 2005
Selectmen consider cell tower at Carlisle School
Richard Boulé and Kent Gonzales of the Planning Board and Brian Lamoreaux of Sprint appeared at the July 12 Selectmen's meeting to reopen the debate on siting a cell tower in the center of town, possibly at the Carlisle School.
As anyone attempting to operate a cell phone has discovered, the town center is currently a dead spot. According to the 1997 Federal Telecommunications Act, a municipality cannot prevent cell carriers from locating towers where there is a need to provide sufficient coverage, although it can propose reasonable alternatives. By proposing locations on town property, Carlisle hopes to receive revenue that would otherwise go to a private owner.
On top of a hill
Research conducted by Broadcast Signal Labs in 2003 on behalf of the town pointed to the school as a prime location for a tower because of the elevation. A tower would have to be only eighty feet above the ground and could be placed on a roof. Other locations such as the fire station, DPW, and Town Hall would require towers of 130 feet or more. Additional feet or additional towers would be required to serve several carriers. Bylaw changes will be required to locate a cell tower anywhere in the town center, as setbacks and proximity restrictions currently leave no suitable location.
School committee member David Dockterman and Carlisle School Superintendent Marie Doyle heard the case for a school cell tower, with Doyle noting they are "collecting information to take back for discussion." Both expressed some concern about safety, with Doyle asking to review the health data. Dockterman also wondered what maintenance issues might arise with older roofs supporting more weight. Selectman Doug Stevenson suggested Lamoreaux provide data on what schools have cell towers in the area and what the issues are. It was noted that several schools, including Middlesex, and hospitals, including Emerson, have cell towers.
Parent Nancy Szczesniak expressed concern that cell towers would interfere with the school experience and bring workers on-campus who are not CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) certified. Lamoreaux noted each carrier would require a substantial footprint for equipment and would probably need access during school hours. However he said restrictions and requirements can be placed regarding who is sent.
Selectman John Williams said, "I would think the school would not be a good place" because it raises more concerns. Planning Board chair Louise Hara noted there will be "tremendous opposition no matter what direction we go." Stevenson agreed, "the room will fill up" when a hearing is held. However, the greatest opposition in the past was to placing a tower on conservation land. To consider the Conant Land, for example, "You'd have the room twice as filled," according to Tim Hult, because the access road would destroy the land for conservation use.
A building permit has been issued for a cell tower on private property at River Road, and there is a small possibility this may solve some of the coverage problems. However, Stevenson told the Planning Board to "make it a priority to move forward and look at the bylaws" with a goal of presenting a plan for cell towers to Spring Town Meeting. That goal will only be achieved if more people volunteer to join the task force, and Boulé put out an appeal for anyone with an interest to please step forward. The goal is to present a plan at Spring Town Meeting.
© 2005 The