Buckland ZBA approves three variances for proposed cell tower

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

  • Members of the public at Tuesday’s cell tower hearing at Buckland Town Hall. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

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

Staff Writer
Published: 7/27/2022 2:06:53 PM

BUCKLAND — Following a new balloon visibility discussion on the third day of joint public hearings of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals concerning Vertex Tower Assets LLC’s proposed 150-foot cell tower, the ZBA approved three variances for the project, with plans to continue discussion on Aug. 11.

The ZBA approved variances for Vertex to build a tower on a slope with an incline of more than 5 degrees; to build in an area less than 150 feet from a wetland; and, perhaps the most contentious variance among meeting attendees, to build a tower that is more than 10 feet above the tree canopy, the maximum height allowed by town bylaws. Bylaws would allow for a cell tower that is about 90 feet tall in the proposed lot at 28 Martin Road, whereas Vertex is seeking a 150-foot tower.

Vertex, represented by attorney Francis Parisi, has argued that these bylaws are a hardship on the proposed lot, although John Gould, co-chair of the Planning Board and ZBA, contends that the bylaws would create a problem for building a cell tower on most lots in Buckland. This would be the first cell tower in town. Gould also cited the Telecommunications Act for the decision, saying the boards cannot create a prohibition on a personal wireless service facility, and needed to grant the series of variances.

The Planning Board will now deliberate on whether to grant a waiver to Vertex to allow construction of a 150-foot tower under a special permit process. The Planning Board did not move forward with a discussion of waivers due to technology issues involving members attending remotely.

In the previous meeting, on July 12, the Planning Board had approved three waivers: allowing Vertex to build a monopole wireless communication tower despite not having a Federal Communications Commission license — which town bylaws require — under the condition that Vertex has at least one lease agreement with a wireless company before construction begins; and waiving the initial requirements for radio frequency engineer and acoustical engineer inspections before construction.

Public comment also continued at Tuesday’s meeting. Most commenters requested the cell tower be shorter than the proposed 150 feet.

Resident David Lenaerts argued the Planning Board should only allow the tower to be 120 feet, and have two spaces for cell carriers, instead of the proposed four.

“Two carriers will reach the financial needs of the company,” Lenaerts said. “We are not responsible for the profit of the tower company.”

In a vote from the Planning Board, members decided to end the spoken public comment period, but allow written comments until Aug. 4, a week before the next meeting. The next meeting held only by the Planning Board without a public hearing will take place on Thursday, Aug. 11, at 6:30 p.m., in person at Town Hall.

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

An earlier version of this story explained the details of the next meeting incorrectly. The Aug. 11 meeting will be held by the Planning Board.


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