Friday, December 16, 2005
Consultant recommends "exceptions" to wireless bylaw
Town consultant David Maxson recommended at the December 7 meeting of the Wireless Bylaw Subcommittee that Carlisle make only minor modifications to its wireless communications bylaw, and suggested the Planning Board be given greater discretion to waive the bylaw and allow cell towers by special permit.
The committee had asked Maxson, who is managing partner of Broadcast Signal Lab, to review possible options for wireless coverage in town and to develop recommendations for amending Carlisle's restrictive cell-tower bylaw, which requires a 900-foot setback from any dwelling. Earlier proposals, discussed by the Planning Board and the Wireless Bylaw Subcommittee, included amending the bylaw by reducing the required setbacks, or creating defined "overlay districts" where the bylaw provisions would not apply.
Adding a exceptions clause
Chair Rich Boulé summarized the sense of the committee, recommending making minor revisions to the bylaw. "Clean it up, take out superfluous definitions but leave the setbacks in."
The subcommittee members in attendance voted unanimously to request Maxson draft a revision to the bylaw — making modest changes without initiating "wireless overlay districts" or changing setback dimensions, but adding an "exceptions clause" allowing the Planning Board to waive certain requirements based on findings. Further, they recommended lowering the antenna height restriction to 60 feet, with a 90-foot maximum limit if the applicant can justify the need for added height.
Fiber optic cable system
Maxson also reviewed an alternative to cell towers called a "distributed antenna system," which had been proposed at an earlier meeting. Such a
system could involve siting a base station on town property, running fiber optic cables down the power lines and hanging "electronic cabinets" on the utility poles.
Maxson noted that the power company does not like equipment located above their high-voltage primary power lines, "because if it should fall over, it will hit the primaries." He added there is available space for additional cables on the poles below the power lines, but in this position "you cannot get above the trees. The fact that Carlisle is a heavily wooded community makes it particularly challenging. You would have to use separate poles."
On the other hand, subcommittee member Bill Tice is not ready to give up on this type of system without concrete data. He believes, "You don't want to exclude distributed antenna systems or any other technologies that are lower profile or lower power."
Subcommittee member Peter Yelle said, "We are focused too much on technology." Maxson said that the question that should be addressed is: "What is the reasonable way that the community can get the coverage without sitings that would be obnoxious?"
From the audience, Paul McCormack of School Street said that his interest was having good coverage for the town, but keeping any towers or antennas away from school facilities. Steve Golson of Stearns Street was interested in aesthetics — keeping antennas from being prominent features seen along approaches to the town.
Yelle later told the Mosquito he felt the decision to open the bylaw to exceptions rather than hard-wire in changes was practical. He feels it makes more sense to wait until an application is made to the Planning Board, and see what exceptions are requested. At that point, structure type, height, and footprint could be negotiated in order to minimize visual impact with the chosen location in mind. He does not currently favor implementing an overlay district, because many questions remain unanswered, such as where to put overlay districts and how they might affect landowners.
School tower site on hold
As for a cell tower on school property, Yelle says the location is ideal in many respects. He sees no health hazard and notes he has four children who do or will attend the Carlisle School. Tice says the subcommittee currently agrees "we're not going down the path of a big tower behind the school anymore." He said that community input was a factor, and the subcommittee needs direction from the Board of Selectmen as to what options the subcommittee should explore to best serve the town's interests. Yelle said, "Our job is to advise the Board of Selectmen. It would be up to Town Meeting to decide" if a cell tower on school property should be pursued.
The next meeting of the Wireless Bylaw Committee is scheduled for December 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall. The agenda will include review of proposed wireless bylaw changes that will be presented at the December 20 Board of Selectmen meeting.
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