Buckland, Conway boards consider cell tower proposals

  • Members of the Buckland Zoning Board of Appeals during Thursday’s cell tower hearing at Town Hall. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • Attorney Francis Parisi, representing Vertex Tower Assets LLC, speaks during a joint hearing of the Buckland Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday at Town Hall. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Published: 7/8/2022 5:28:19 PM

Representatives from Wrentham-based Vertex Tower Assets LLC met with boards across the region on Thursday seeking permits to build cell towers and increase cell coverage in the area.

Buckland and Conway officials both held meetings about cell towers, but are at different stages in the process. Conway hosted a Planning Board meeting during which members approved having a cell tower in town, while Buckland hosted a joint public hearing with the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board.

Conway

After two months of hearings, the Conway Planning Board approved Vertex Tower Assets LLC’s 156-foot cell tower on Route 116, with the requirement that the company has at least one lease agreement with a wireless company before construction begins.

The Planning Board had signaled its intent to approve the special permit at its June 16 meeting, but waited on officially approving the project until conditions could be set. Chief among those conditions is Vertex cannot initiate construction on the project until it provides evidence that a wireless communications company is in agreement to lease a spot on the tower and the company has also provided a decommission strategy to the Planning Board. The board also laid out a “no-cut zone” for specific vegetation and trees on the property.

Vertex’s tower is planned to be built at 1356 Ashfield Road (Route 116) and is expected to provide cell coverage along the state route’s corridor into the center of Conway and parts of Ashfield.

Approval of the permit was almost held up due to an error on the application, which said Vertex was seeking to build a “monopine” tower — which looks like a pine tree — rather than the intended “monopole” tower. The design plans and visual simulations, however, correctly identified the tower as a monopole tower.

“There was one mention of a monopine in the application. It was a typo,” clarified Vertex owner Stephen Kelleher. “I made it clear it’s not something we were aiming for. If it ends up in the final application, then it’s something we would have to appeal.”

Kelleher said Vertex could have pushed the official approval back if needed, but the Planning Board was willing to accept a letter to fix the error.

“If you think this is a sticking point, we can bump it back,” he said. “It was our error, I’m not disputing it.”

Planning Board Chair Beth Girshman said the board will require “some sort of letter stating there was an error in the application.” The board approved the cell tower’s special permit, with four votes in favor and one abstention.

Due to its 156-foot height, the tower also needs a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals because Conway’s bylaws limit wireless towers to 120 feet. A ZBA meeting is posted for Saturday, July 9, at 10 a.m. for the board to discuss the application.

Buckland

At the joint hearing of the Buckland Planning Board and ZBA, both attorney Francis Parisi, representing Vertex, and Fred Goldstein, a consultant for the town, gave presentations about the proposal for a monopole wireless communication tower at 28 Martin Road. This would be the first cell tower in Buckland.

Both presentations noted the bylaws for the town state a tower cannot be taller than 10 feet above the tree line. They both said this height limitation does not allow for cell coverage in the area. Parisi requested the tower be 150 feet tall, with the possibility of four different company antennas.

“We might be able to bring the height down a little, but it is not way taller than necessary,” Goldstein noted.

Goldstein said he looked at six different locations where the tower could be located, and found that to get coverage along Route 112, the tower needs to be placed in the notch of Route 112 located on Martin Road. The only other location he found that would be suitable is 70 yards away and is on the other side of wetlands.

Parisi requested many variances for the project. One Massachusetts law states construction cannot be built on an incline of more than 5 degrees, although Parisi said Vertex has done work on slopes of 20 degrees in other states. Furthermore, the Conservation Commission does not allow construction within 150 feet of a wetland buffer. Parisi said there is an existing driveway that is already closer than that distance, and while the cell tower itself would be farther than 150 feet away, there will be a road constructed that would be closer than 150 feet from the buffer zone.

Parisi also requested a variance for a zoning law that states the builder of a cell tower needs to posses a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license. He noted that cellphone companies no longer build cell towers; instead, they lease space from companies like Vertex. Parisi said he’d be willing to follow the same condition that is being required in Conway, that at least one cellphone company needs to be in agreement with Vertex before construction starts.

Many in the crowd were against building the cell tower because of visual impact concerns. Buckland resident John Holden said the site of the tower “is still a critical pastoral and forest backdrop to many historic paintings and existing structures, and there is currently no visible development surrounding it.”

While some were against the exact plans of the cell tower, most who offered comments spoke about how Buckland needs more coverage.

“There is clearly a need for service in the valley,” Buckland resident Martha Thurber said. “Our emergency folks always say there is a safety issue when people cannot communicate on Route 112.”

The joint public hearing will continue on Tuesday, July 12, at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall and over Zoom.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081. Bella Levavi can be reached at blevavi@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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