After a lengthy application process that began in the spring of 2012, the Mattapoisett Zoning Board of Appeals approved a proposal to construct a cell phone tower off Jane Lane and Route 6.
Representatives for Industrial Tower & Wireless gave an in-depth presentation detailing the plan, which they have been promoting for months.
“The area that we’re looking to cover with this facility is Route 6 and the surrounding community. Right now there’s a deficit of coverage for all the major wireless carriers. We’re looking to fill in that coverage gap with this proposed facility,” said company engineer Kevin Delaney.
The company had originally put forth the idea last year, seeking a special permit from the Mattapoisett Planning Board. After months of public hearings, however, it was determined by Town Counsel that since the proposed location of the tower was in a residential area, rather than the designated corridor bordering I-195, the company must instead get a variance authorized by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The 145-foot tower would be located in the wooded area off Jane Lane, behind the cranberry bog near Turk’s Seafood Restaurant. It would help improve mobile phone and emergency services communications around town.
According to attorney Jeffrey Angley, who spoke on behalf of the company, said that they were seeking two variances: one for the location itself and one because the tower exceeds the town’s maximum structure height of 35 feet for residential areas.
Coverage will not continue down to the edge of the waterfront due to the drop in elevation. Service should improve for much of the village, but the Point Connett section of town will not see signal enhancement.
“It’s shadowed and the coverage doesn’t make it down there. The only way to get coverage down there would be to build a taller tower,” said Delaney. He said a tower closer to 200 feet in height would help improve signal strength in those areas but would not meet town setback laws.
A 12-foot wide gravel driveway with underground utilities leading to the site would be installed. The entire facility, which measures about 100 feet by 100 feet, would be surrounded by a chain-link fence.
“The site would be fully wooded and we’re only clearing around our leased area,” said engineer Richard Voci.
Individual mobile phone carriers will be responsible for supplying their own shelters and back-up batteries or generators in the event of electricity loss.
Choosing the proposed location did not come lightly, as the company had to create a plan that was in compliance with the zoning by-laws, the Wetlands Protection Act, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
“As far as we know, this is the only viable, feasible site under the Telecommunications Act for this tower,” said Angley.
Abutter Jack Hillier of 10 Jane Lane was concerned about lighting and the noise created by generators installed by carrier companies.
Delaney said that most generators run quietly and tend to run test programs during afternoons so as to not disturb abutters. He also said that matter could be brought up at a later time once it was known what the individual carriers were planning on installing at the compound.
Hillier took it upon himself to visit other tower sites installed by the company and presented photos of those areas to the ZBA, including a junkyard that bears a tower built by the company.
He was also concerned about the possible health concerns related to content of required signage posted on other tower sites, declaring the existence of certain kinds of radiation. Hillier was also worried about the possible negative hit to property values if the tower is constructed. “This has no place in a residential area,” he said.
Brad Hathaway echoed Hillier’s comment on property values and said that the overlay district was implemented to avoid this kind of situation.
“The people were adamant that a tower not be built in a residential area. This is why we have overlay areas for cellular phone towers outside of residential areas,” said Hathaway. “We made an attempt in this town to forestall any problem like the Fairhaven [wind turbines] and the Dartmouth [solar panel array.] To put an industrial facility in a residential area is far worse than putting a business there. What does this do to the value of the homes along Jane Lane? Is there any consideration for reimbursement of the value for these people?”
Hathaway suggested the field near Old Rochester Regional that was once considered for a wind tower would be a better area for the cell tower.
Delaney said that they had performed studies on the frequency radiation surrounding cell phone towers and that there was no evidence that any negative health effects result from living near such structures.
Angley added that, to his knowledge, property values aren’t affected negatively by the existence of a near-by cell tower.
Other residents were worried about the integrity of the project if major parts of town won’t see improved mobile phone coverage.
“Areas that have significant numbers of homes won’t be covered,” said resident Paul Osenkowski. He was concerned that emergency services would have communications issues.
Delaney explained that the UHF radio system used by the police department operates on a lower frequency that propagates out further than most cell signals so the police would not have signal blackouts in the spotty coverage areas.
Some residents questioned the necessity to put the tower in a residential area 300 feet from local homes.
While there were those questioning the need for the tower, other residents voiced their support for the project, citing their own need for better service and the security that can afford their neighborhoods.
“Times have changed and the need for this cell service around our town is very badly needed. I would urge you to vote in favor of it,” said resident Bill Cantor of Prospect Road, who currently does not have reliable mobile phone service at his home.
The ZBA felt that most of their questions had been adequately addressed during the hearing and voted 3-1 in favor of the proposal.
In other business, the ZBA issued the following decisions:
•Issued a special permit to Paul O’Hara of 11 Beach Street who would like to expand his family’s vacation home in order to accommodate a growing family.
•Voted in favor of an application filed by the Town of Mattapoisett Highway Department to construct an addition to the department’s building at 5 Mendell Road.
•Issued a special permit to Peter and Leigh Hemingway who propose to raze part of the dwelling at 4 Randall Road in order to construct a new in-law apartment.
•Voted in favor of an application for a special permit for Chris Demakis and Vincent Cragin who are proposing to open a general store at 10 Water Street.
•Issued a special permit to Peter Guernsey and Erika Warmbrunn who proposed to elevate the dwelling at 13 Ridge Avenue and to construct an addition, porch, and staircase.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Zoning Board of Appeals will be held on Thursday, February,
By Eric Tripoli