Friday, March 9, 2007
New cell tower strategy unveiled
An ad hoc working group advised the Board of Selectmen (BOS) on February 27 that leasing public land for Personal Wireless Service (PWS) facilities may help the town minimize the visual impact of cell towers, improve signal coverage, and provide a new source of revenue. The ad hoc group asked the Selectmen to endorse the plan and draft Warrant Articles for Town Meeting. If passed, the Selectmen could then issue a Request for Proposals and lease some or all of the nine town-owned parcels (see list, below) deemed most suitable by the committee. Any proposed PWS facility would still require a special permit from the Planning Board.
Brian Larson and Peter Yelle explained the conclusions of the ad hoc group, which also included Selectman Bill Tice and was assisted by the town's consultant on wireless facilities, David Maxon of Broadcast Signal Labs. They felt the town should stick to leasing land, and avoid system ownership, or capital outlay.
Two types of technology were discussed: Concealed Antenna Monopoles (CAM) and the newer Distributed Antenna Solutions (DAS). The town's first cell tower, located off Bedford Road, is a 180-foot monopole with the antenna equipment concealed inside. A separate building beside the pole houses additional equipment. It was felt that five or more monopoles would be needed for adequate town-wide coverage under the newly revised town bylaw, which stipulates tower heights typically in the 60- to 90-foot range.
A DAS system, in contrast, consists of a small whip antenna and an equipment cannister attached to an existing utility pole. A fiber optic cable would connect these systems, spaced up to half a mile apart, and would link all the antennas to a "carrier hotel," a 20-foot by 40-foot building needed to house additional equipment. The town does not control the utility poles, but theoretically might license access to the municipal right-of-way in which the poles are located. The ad hoc group felt the risks involved in charting new legal territory made licensing an undesirable option. Even allowing free use of the utility poles, the town would still gain revenue from leasing land for the carrier hotels.
A hybrid system, including both monopoles and DAS might provide the best solution for Carlisle, the group felt. Larson noted that market forces would probably dictate more commercial interest in monopole construction, but said the town could write its RFP to give preference to hybrid or DAS proposals.
The amount of possible revenue varies by the type of technology as well as the number of companies who respond to the RFP. Monopoles are expected to generate the most income ($45,000), followed by a hybrid system ($36,000), with a pure DAS design the least profitable ($21,000). For monopoles, money would be based on a yearly lease of $15,000 per site. The revenue estimate for a hybrid system includes the carrier hotel site and a land lease for one cell tower on the Banta-Davis fields. With DAS technology, yearly revenues are predicted based on a $20,000 lease of land for the carrier hotel combined with antenna fees totaling $1,000. If right-of-way licenses were added, the amount might be about $600 higher.
Enthusiasm among the Selectmen for the Warrant Article was mixed. Selectman John Williams said he would not aggressively encourage cell tower construction as a source of town revenue. On the other hand, Chair Doug Stevenson said, "I personally would like to see this option be given to the town."
Selectman Alan Carpenito asked about the parcel leasing. The number used would vary, he was told, depending on the proposals submitted, because one carrier might need fewer sites to complete signal coverage compared with a different carrier. Of the 27 town properties considered, all but nine were rejected for reasons such as being too wet, too low, or too well protected by conservation constraints. The nine remaining parcels include:
· Banta-Davis Land, Bedford Road
· DPW, off Lowell Street
· Conant Land/ Rockland Road
· Police Station, Lowell Street
·Carlisle Public School, Church Street
· Town Hall, Westford Street
· 0.5 acre, 1082 Westford Street
· 0.5 acre, Cutters Ridge/East Street
· 0.5 acre, Procter/Lowell Street
On March 6, the Selectmen noted that one of the nine properties, the school, be kept on the list of PWS lease sites even though it may be under the control of the School Committee rather than the BOS. The Selectmen did not reach a consensus about the PWS proposal, but agreed to keep it on the Warrant. They will make final decisions on whether to support individual Warrant Articles at a later meeting prior to Town Meeting.
Private proposals multiply
Selectman Tim Hult asked how town leasing would fit in with the existing tower and proposals for additional private facilities. For instance, Omnipoint Communications, Inc. has submitted applications to the Planning Board for special permits to locate facilities at 886 Lowell Street and 1022 Westford Street. It was considered unlikely that existing facilities would be able to integrate into a hybrid DAS network, but future construction might.
Church steeple leased
The First Religious Society (FRS) has recently signed leases with Nextel/Sprint and T-Mobile. FRS Cell Tower Project Coordinator Alan Cameron spoke with the Mosquito later and described the proposals. Nextel/Sprint plans to place PWS antennas in the top of the Unitarian Universalist church spire. Both high- and low-frequency band systems will be included. T-Mobile plans to use a low-frequency system, locating its antennas in three of the four corner posts in the mid-section of the steeple. Because wet wood does not transmit radio frequencies successfully, Cameron said that wood around the antennas would be replaced by fiberglass panels. The only change he expects to be visible on the outside of the church would be three air conditioner condensors, each with a footprint of about two-feet by three-feet, to be placed behind the church. Ancillary equipment will be located in the attic. (See sketch above.)
If the carriers receive all needed town permits, then once they install their equipment in the church, they will begin paying the FRS a combined rent of $49,000 per year, to increase 3% annually, Cameron said.
© 2007 The