Verizon Stock – New application for a cellular phone tower in South Williamstown begins approval process | Local News
WILLIAMSTOWN — After 12 years and three unsuccessful attempts, a cellular telephone service provider is again attempting to locate a telecommunications tower in South Williamstown.
The provider, AT&T, is again working with Peter Phelps, co-owner of Sweet Brook Farm on Oblong Road, to site a 165-foot high tower on the 36.5-acre property.
“The applicants (AT&T) have identified a significant gap in AT&T’s wireless coverage in the western section of Williamstown along Route 7 and other surface roads and in accordance with its FCC license requirements and have designed the proposed facility to resolve this gap,” wrote Christopher Ciolfi, principal of tower location consultant Evolution Site Services, in its application to town officials.
This service gap is what has been the motivation for the three previous attempts to bolster the cellular signal in the area.
In 2009, AT&T applied to locate a similar tower on the property of Mount Greylock Middle/High School, but the application was eventually denied. The company then applied to locate the tower on Sweet Brook Farm, which abuts the high school property. But that attempt fell due to the identification of a rare species of vegetation on the site.
In 2017, Verizon applied to locate a tower on the property of the former Taconic Restaurant. After a robust application process that drew local opposition, the permits were granted. But Verizon and the landowner could not reach mutually agreeable terms for the land lease and the project fell through.
In all three scenarios, opponents to the proposals have pointed to the beloved vistas of South Williamstown and their desire to preserve the historic sight lines.
The latest proposal is for a 165-foot-high lattice tower. It would be located not far from the previously proposed site on Sweet Brook Farm, but the elevation of the new structure would be about 200 feet below the original site, with a buffer between it and the species of vegetation to the west known as Hitchcock’s Sedge, listed by the USDA as a species “of special concern.”
The site is surrounded by trees with an average height of roughly 70 feet, Ciolfi noted during Thursday night’s meeting of the Williamstown Zoning Board of Appeals. He said that the top of the tower has the potential of hosting antennae from a maximum of five service providers, including AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.
Due to the trees and the topography, views of the tower would be more limited than in other previously proposed locations.
Access to the tower would be through the farm’s primary driveway, which leads to an old farm road that would be widened and enhanced with a gravel surface leading to the tower site 2,500 feet away through the farm property. The tower would stand within a fenced-in compound area with underground utilities, support equipment and an eight-foot barbed-wire topped fence.
The area is primarily rural, with just a few homes in the immediate area.
Evolution Site Services is seeking two telecommunications facility special permits, one for the tower, one for the facility, and a variance to allow the tower to stand 23 feet closer to the road than required. The bylaw requires the tower to stand at least the tower’s height plus 50 feet from property boundaries, or 215 feet, so in case of catastrophic failure and the tower falls, it would remain on the property. The variance is seeking to reduce that distance by 23 feet, meaning that if the tower fell, it would still remain on the property and pose no threat to passersby. With the variance, the tower will be 192 feet from the boundary.
“The proposed tower will be located on a 46.5-acre property and maintain a 100 percent tower height fall zone to all property lines, thereby assuring that in the event of a catastrophic failure the tower structure would remain completely on the subject property,” the application states. “Granting the requested variance would allow the applicant, and future wireless service providers, to provide superior wireless signal improvements for personal, business, educational and emergency services. The proposed improvements will be a substantial benefit to the town, not a substantial detriment.”
The Zoning Board of Appeals agreed to set a balloon test for 9 a.m. Wednesday at the site. That day, the applicant will fly a weather balloon at the proposed location of the tower to the height of 165 feet to allow people to see what the visual impact of the tower might be.
One neighbor to the site, Lisa Howard, expressed concern that the visual impact would affect neighbors and the many individuals who use Oblong Road as a recreational resource.
Further discussion would occur at the board’s next regular meeting, which is set for April 15.