Friday, March 3, 2006
Selectmen hear details of wireless bylaw revision
Brian Larson of Autumn Lane informed the Board of Selectmen at its February 28 meeting that the Wireless Bylaw Subcommittee has completed the proposed revisions to the existing bylaw and are prepared to present the changes at the Annual Town Meeting for approval. David Maxson of Broadcast Signal Lab has been providing expert consulting to the committee in an effort that began last summer. The committee has spent its time reviewing every line of the bylaw in order to propose changes responsive to Carlisle's needs. "Overall, the proposed changes do not change the core protections of the existing bylaw," assured Larson.
Bylaw revisions were necessary to provide alternatives to what opposing lawyers have referred to as the "giant setback." This has been the basis of lawsuits that claim the 900-foot setback precludes wireless carriers from covering the town. "Carlisle has spent over $81,000 in legal expenses to date, defending lawsuits under the existing bylaw," said Larson. Revisions were also needed to resolve conflicting and ambiguous language and requirements, remove unused definitions and terminology, clarify requirements, and incorporate appropriate definitions.
Larson explained what is changing and what is staying the same. "The overall goal of the original bylaw remains the same," said Larson. "We have control over placement and design of personal wireless facilities through stringent approval criteria, safety and construction requirements and, yes, the 900-foot setback." The major change to the setback is that now the bylaw provides a waiver for "low impact" facilities. These can be concealed antenna monopoles of limited height or facilities located inside or on structures. A waiver of the 900-foot setback would allow low impact facilities to be nearer to, or part of, structures such as private homes, schools or other public buildings in the historic district. "The waiver only applies to the 900-foot setback," asserted Larson.
A concealed monopole would typically be about 60 feet high, with an absolute maximum of 90 feet. Also considered as a low impact facility is a distributed antenna system (DAS), which has intrigued town residents ever since the cell tower debate began. Maxson showed several photos of a DAS installation that featured a single antenna extending above a telephone pole with a box housing the electronics mounted halfway down the pole. These would be mounted at one-quarter mile intervals and are most effective where surrounding tree level is at or below the pole height, such as Cape Cod and the Islands.
"A 60-foot monopole could bring in $1,000 to $2,000 per month per tenant," said Larson. "On town-leased land, this could amount to $12,000 to $48,000 per year in town revenue." The proposed bylaw changes will be placed on the town Warrant and presented for voter approval at the Annual Town Meeting.
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