Friday, February 17, 2006
Town signals wireless bylaw revisions needed
Brian Larson has logged extra hours for the Wireless Bylaw Revision Subcommittee, reviewing the proposed bylaw changes with the Board of Health (BOH) on February 7 and the Planning Board on February 13.
Larson, also a Planning Board member, said that he was not looking for any approvals or endorsement as he informally reviewed the problems with the current bylaw that have brought about the need for revision. Key points were:
· Revisions are needed to protect the character of the town while providing reasonable alternatives to the present "giant setback" required by the present bylaw.
· The present bylaw has been unsuccessfully defended in court at a cost of about $90,000 to the town.
· A "clean-up" is needed to resolve conflicting language, remove unused definitions, clarify requirements, and incorporated context-appropriate definitions.
· The 900-foot setback requirement remains. However, a waiver process is permitted for "low impact" personal wireless facilities.
Before the BOH, Larson stressed that these changes must have strictly "low impact" results. He defined low impact as the protection of scenic, historical, natural and man-made resources of the town, safety and quality of life, property values and the environment. The cell towers must also be low impact, which would include minimized height, quantity and visibility. Options include installing an antenna inside a building or in the form of a 60-foot concealed antenna monopole.
A member of the audience spoke to the BOH about his wish that the new bylaw retain the 900-foot setback between a cell tower and the school. He was concerned about the possible health effects on children, especially those who might have an auto-immune disease, for example.
The proposed bylaw states: "No personal wireless tower or personal wireless service facility, except as may be allowed by waiversshall be located within: nine-hundred feet, on a horizontal plane, to the structure of an existing child care facility, to the structure of an existing residence, to any structure in an Historic District."
"The Planning Board may waive any setback requirement for the implementation of personal wireless facility deployments that in the context of a specific proposal are determined to have low impact on the community. Deployments that could have such low impacts are small form factor technologies, concealed antenna monopoles, and/or installations in/on-buildings [sic] and structures. In addition to making a determination that the proposed deployment has low impact, the Planning Board must also find that such waivers better serve the objectives of this bylaw than any alternative deployments not requiring such waivers."
The Planning Board was supportive of the subcommittee's efforts but several members questioned the advisability of one proposed change in a separate section of the bylaw — "Other antenna supporting structures, such as truss (also known as lattice) or guyed personal wireless towers, shall be permitted upon an additional finding by the SPGA [Special Permit Granting Authority] that the structure and facility is no more objectionable in the context of the proposed facility than a monopole and that the benefits of choosing such a structure outweigh the detriments." The 900-foot setback would apply to such a structure and it could not be considered for a waiver of the setback requirement.
Subcommittee Chair Kent Gonzales offered the conjecture that in some situations a guyed lattice structure could be less visually intrusive than a monopole. The 900-foot setback would apply to such a lattice structure and it could not be considered for a waiver of the setback requirement.
Planning Board chair David Freedman countered that the rationale might be valid but that it is a substantial change from the present bylaw. The present bylaw states, "No lattice or guy-wired towers, and no teleports, shall be permitted, and the Planning Board may allow and/or limit the use and size of parabolic antennas, and of repeaters." [Section 126.96.36.199]
The Wireless Bylaw Subcommittee meeting originally scheduled for February 16 has been rescheduled to February 23 at Town Hall. A subcommittee presentation is tentatively scheduled for the Board of Selectmen's meeting on February 28.
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