AT&T drops Shelburne cell tower plans

File photo

File photo

SHELBURNE — Plans to build a 100-foot cell tower on Colrain Shelburne Road, which would have filled a gap in cell phone coverage along Route 2, have been put on hold for now by AT&T.

The company withdrew its plans to build the monopole tower behind the old Mohawk Orchard barn — a proposal that drew both support and opposition among the 40 or so residents who attended earlier public hearing sessions.

“This did come as a complete surprise to the ZBA,” Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Joseph Palmeri said recently. Last Thursday, he said, the board voted 3-0 to accept the withdrawal of the special permit application “without prejudice” at a continued public hearing. The ZBA has also canceled subsequent meeting dates with the utility and dropped its earlier request for AT&T to pay for an independent consultant to evaluate the tower proposal and evaluate the impact of such a tower on property values.

“Without prejudice” means the applicant could submit a new special permit request for that site at any time. If the ZBA had voted to reject a special permit application, the applicant would have had to wait at least two years before filing a new special permit request for the site. The company also sought a waiver from the special permit requirements that the tower be at least 500 feet from the nearest residence (it was 330 feet away), and that the tower could be more than 20 feet higher than the treeline.

In a brief letter explaining their reasons for withdrawing their plans, Arthur P. Krieger, a lawyer for AT&T, said the company remains committed to extending coverage nationwide, but has adjusted how it will spend a larger-than-planned quarterly budget of $5.3 billion.

“Our commitment to that particular site, or to a site within that area, remains unchanged,” said AT&T spokesman Will Keyser. “But we are constantly looking at consumer demand and prioritizing sites based on all different factors. It’s a short-term prioritization, based on a number of factors,” he said.

When asked if AT&T had dropped the proposal because of opposition raised by some Colrain Shelburne Road residents, Keyer said it’s not uncommon to have concerned residents in areas where a tower is proposed. “We do everything we can to work with people who live in that community.

Having said that, the coverage gap still exists. He said opposition is “never an over-arching reason for us to abandon our desire to cover these gaps.” He said about 70 percent of customers are getting “smartphones” that are used for more than just phone calls.

“Consumer demand for wireless (phones) are growing every year,” he continued. “We know that demand is going to increase for more reliable service and faster download speed, and to make calls from virtually any area. We’re doing everything we can to build out our network.”

Meanwhile, the Colrain Planning Board and Zoning Board officials have approved permits that will allow AT&T to build a 120-foot monopole tower on town-owned land at the transfer station, off Charlemont Road.

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