With board approvals, cell tower coming to Greenfield Road in Colrain

  • An image of the cell tower plan shared during last week’s joint meeting of the Colrain Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. Screenshot

  • An image of the 172-foot-tall cell tower’s coverage area, shared during last week’s joint meeting of the Colrain Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. Screenshot

Staff Writer
Published: 1/12/2021 3:06:21 PM

COLRAIN — A 172-foot-tall cellphone tower will be built along Greenfield Road, now that the special permit and variance have been approved by the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.

According to plans outlined during a joint meeting of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals last week, the applicant, Vertex Tower Assets LLC, sought a variance to construct a cell tower on David Nims’ property at 125 Greenfield Road because the main tower will be approximately 166 feet tall, with the lighting rod reaching 172 feet. Colrain’s zoning bylaws require that structures over 120 feet be approved through a variance from the town.

Speaking to the boards and public on behalf of the project and Vertex Tower Assets was attorney Francis Parisi of Parisi Law Associates from Providence, R.I. Parisi stated the tower’s height is necessary to provide an adequate coverage zone.

“As you can imagine, given the topography in Colrain, it can be a challenge to provide the coverage we want,” he said.

Vertex Tower Assets had originally applied for a second possible tower location on Reils Lane, but Parisi said the LLC planned to withdraw this second application upon approval of the Greenfield Road site. According to Parisi, AT&T has committed to using the tower, and other companies will likely follow suit. He said the tower will be built to accommodate equipment for up to four companies, as well as local public safety antennas.

“You can’t go just above the trees, because we need to try and build a facility that accommodates multiple telecommunications companies,” Parisi said. “It’s not really financially viable otherwise. Verizon will come on, because they like to be competitive with AT&T … then others.”

Parisi said the tower site will be more than 200 feet from the nearest abutting property line. He described the facility as a “minor compound,” with a clearing of less than 75-by-75-feet. Once constructed, the facility will involve only periodical maintenance visits. The site has an existing driveway, which will be extended to the base of the facility.

“Someone will maybe come by once a month or so,” Parisi said. “Most of the equipment can be monitored remotely.”

Vertex Tower Assets completed a study in November, using a balloon raised to the height of the tower to assess the tower’s potential visibility from surrounding areas. According to Parisi, the study saw assessors drive around to view the balloon from a 1-mile perimeter around the tower’s location.

Some contest to the tower’s height came from Leyden Planning Board Chair Jim Brodeur, who was in attendance. He argued that more than two dozen homes in Leyden will be “adversely affected” because, at 172 feet tall, he said they’ll be able to see the tower from their homes. Brodeur asked about the potential of a different location, but Parisi said the Greenfield Road location will provide the best coverage for the area, including along Route 112 going north and west toward Charlemont.

“I feel like we picked a location that works,” Parisi said. “Yes, there’s some visibility, but I’ve never built an invisible cell tower. … The reason the study only goes out 1 mile is you might be able to see (the tower), but it’s a stick on the horizon — not really a huge visual impediment.”

He noted the tower will not need to have a light based on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards, which require only structures exceeding 200 feet above ground level to be marked with tower lights or tower paint. Members of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals mentioned that some of them can see a red light from a radio tower in Leyden, as well as lights from Mount Greylock, from their homes, but they “got used to it and don’t even see it anymore.”

“I’ve been on the zoning board for 42 years. We’ve tried to get a cell tower in town for 42 years and it keeps getting voted down,” said member Howard Phelps. “We’ve got to be doing things that are good for Colrain, nevermind our neighbor.”

The Planning Board ultimately passed the special permit, and the Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved the special variance for the cell tower.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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