MVC concludes public hearings on Chappy cell tower

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The public hearings that began in early October on the proposed permanent AT&T cell phone tower on Chappaquiddick concluded Thursday night at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC).

AT&T is proposing to erect a tower 13 feet taller than the current 104-foot temporary tower, which was approved by the MVC in April 2016. If approved, the permanent tower will be sited where the temporary tower now sits, on Robert Fynbo’s property at 14 Sampson Ave. Mr. Fynbo already has an 85-foot antenna on his property, which he erected 34 years ago for Chappy WISP, a local Internet provider.

The temporary tower is a “monopole” design, which has no antennae on the exterior. The permanent tower would have multiple appurtenances mounted on the exterior.

As per previous public hearings, Brian Grossman, attorney with Cambridge-based Anderson & Kreiger, which represents AT&T, answered questions from commissioners and responded to public comment.

As per previous public hearings, opposition came from Sampson Avenue residents, who contended the antenna should not be sited in a residential district.

Opponent and Sampson Avenue resident Dana Strayton asked why no one had looked into the Connect America Fund as an alternative to AT&T. She contended Chappy would be an ideal candidate for support from the Connect America Fund, which supports improved telecommunications in rural areas.

Rob Strayton said Mr. Fynbo’s original tower should never have been permitted in the first place, and asked the MVC to take no action until litigation he initiated with the Edgartown zoning board of appeals on the issue was resolved.

Woody Filley, Chappy resident and longtime member of the cell phone and technology committees, urged commissioners to approve the permanent tower. “There has been a lot of work done by a lot of people over the past seven years,” he said. “People have been pretty pleased with the added coverage. Any property is going to have issues. We’re lucky AT&T came here in the first place.”

Mr. Grossman made it clear the offer on the table was the last, best offer.

“Alternative technologies and locations have been evaluated; from AT&T’s perspective, this location makes the most sense,” he said.

Although some residents favored keeping the temporary tower, which has increased coverage to 78 percent of Chappy, including all of the beaches, Mr. Grossman said that was not an option.

“Even if AT&T wanted to leave there, it can’t,” he said. “We were clear it’s only a temporary fix. It does not use all frequencies AT&T utilizes. The homework has been done; we think it’s the best site. It complies with DRI criteria and zoning bylaws of Edgartown, and we ask [the MVC] to approve it.”

At a previous hearing, Dan Goulet, consultant from Boston-based C Squared Systems, explained that the permanent tower could not be a monopole design because the growing capacity demands on cell service and wireless data, which spike dramatically in the summer, necessitate exterior antennas. The permanent tower would not significantly expand the geographic range of the temporary tower, but it would provide considerably more capacity.

The exterior antennas could be hidden by fake tree branches on a “mono-pine” tower, which simulates, to some extent, a towering pine tree.

Mr. Grossman said AT&T will cover the cost of the more expensive “mono-pine” tower.

AT&T hopes to have the permanent tower up and running by next May. If the new tower is not approved, Mr. Grossman said the temporary tower will be removed in May.

AT&T was the only company to respond to a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a wireless antenna, sent out by the Chappaquiddick Wireless Committee in 2015.

The MVC will make a decision at its Dec. 14 meeting.

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25 COMMENTS

  1. Let’s just keep a few things straight here. Mr Strayton can hardly be called a “resident” of Chappaquiddick. He comes down once in a while in the summer, and hasn’t owned the property very long. He knew perfectly well there was a tower on Sampson Ave but still bought Foster and Dodie’s old place. Now he wants to complain about a tower. The real residents of Chappaquiddick support AT&T by a wide margin. If this guy is successful we could lose both cell service and Chappy Wisp. Nothing like arriving at a new place and making trouble.

  2. Yes, let’s set a few things straight here: AT&T has leases on 2 other lots on Chappaquiddick. Those lots are on higher ground which enables coverage of a larger area and therefore provides better public safety for more people. That is basic physics. Moving the tower does not DEPRIVE anyone of service, it, in fact, provides coverage to more people and therefore provides better public safety. The FACT is that AT&T IS building a cell tower on Chappy, they don’t care about public safety, they don’t care if you cut your leg off in the woods, they don’t care about the beaches, they DO care about “finding a better solution” to the problem THEY have. I would just point out that on every coverage map, for all 3 of the leased locations, a certain area of Katama is always shown with “green” coverage. That IS the “target coverage area,” the rest is a song and dance routine. The FACT is that tower experts from Verizon, Sprint, American Tower Corp AND AT&T all agree the Sampson Ave site is inadvisable. A cell tower on Sampson Ave cannot be built to any industry norms and standards. The noise levels can not be met under the proposed design and the proposed equipment is insufficient to meet the power and cooling demands of a tower and the providers intended to be located there. The tower fails to meet the Bylaws of the Town of Edgartown, for these and about a dozen more reasons Sampson Ave is not the appropriate location. Hanley, if you and others in the neighborhood are willing to bend-over for a bunch of millionaires and billionaires telling you to live with this thing for the rest of your lives, that’s your choice, I didn’t buy my home to be irradiated by AT&T. I bought a home on Chappy because I have been coming here my whole life, was married here, and have worked 16-hour days and saved my entire life to buy the home in which I wanted to retire, to spend the rest of my life. You may say I have no rights, but there are rules, and there are laws, and everyone has an opportunity to follow those laws. Some, feel they are above the law, and for them there is often a day of reckoning when someone with the “cajones” steps up and says “this is wrong, and this will not stand.” As a veteran I would expect you to understand and and believe everyone’s obligation to do exactly that? You’re ignorant of the real issue and you’re ignorant of what this tower is REALLY about, some rich guy who only comes to the Vineyard (not Chappy, btw) for one month in the summer. I’d be happy to show you the email that lays it all out, and to show you the “better solution” AT&T found for the guy’s Florida home? Don’t you worry, as much as Brian Grossman hems and haws and makes idle threats, AT&T is going to make sure it achieves a “better solution” to the problem of coverage, not on Chappy, but in Katama.

    • Feel free to expand on any conspiratorial information you may have – do it right here in public. Tell us what it’s “really about”, that we may be disabused of our “ignorance”.

  3. Do you really believe AT&T is building a tower on Chappy because they care about you? About anyone on Chappy? Don’t tell me you are so naive to think the 9th largest corporation is doing this out of the goodness of it’s collective Wall Street heart? So what is the business case to build a tower on Chappy? Why is AT&T the only carrier willing to build a tower on Chappy? Understand, this is about billionaires getting what they want at your expense. This is about a billionaire not spending a $100K so he can have cell service when he is in Katama during August. But telling that story doesn’t really work for AT&T, they have to feed you lies that its about “public safety.” Trust me, this has nothing to do with public safety, from AT&T’s perspective. Grossman all but said it in this MVC hearing, and Roger responded with “So much for safety!” Do you really think Brian Grossman cares if you live or die? I would encourage everyone to ask AT&T the tough questions and to demand honest answers (especially the media!), not more of Grossman’s equivocations. Yes, it’s naive and ignorant to think AT&T has suddenly become a charitable organization dedicated to your well-being, so what are they doing on Chappy? If AT&T is going to use Chappy for its own selfish, self-serving reasons, shouldn’t we at least demand that they do it in a way that has the least impact on the neighborhood, and does the most good for the community?

  4. Until I see conclusive evidence to the contrary I will continue to believe that AT&T is a public corporation formed for the purpose of making money, in this case by selling cell phone service and space rentals to other like companies. Trust me, there is little long range profit in killing people and AT&T is not stupid. Your conspiratorial accusations need fleshing out with facts.

  5. So you believe Chappy is a place where AT&T can make money? This is pretty basic, but this is how it works. Your voice calls are included in your monthly subscription, unlimited calling. The carriers do not make money on voice calls, in fact, voice calls COST the carriers money. Now, back to your phone bill, data usage is capped. Use so many gigabytes of data and the meter starts spinning (at usurious rates, I might add). That is how cell companies make money. Why do you think Randall Stephenson, the CEO of AT&T (who makes $190M/yr.btw) wants to buy Time-Warner for $85 Billion? Content, the world’s largest movie archive. Data. Petabytes of data! Are you going to be streaming music and videos on your cellphone? Playing video games? Basically, devouring terabytes of data, because if you are not, AT&T is not making money on Chappy. And where did Randy get the idea to buy Time-Warner? At a dinner on the Vineyard. Bloomberg published that story several months back. And to clarify yet another inaccuracy, AT&T doesn’t want to own towers, they wouldn’t own a Sampson Ave tower, that’s one of my biggest concerns. See the article I submitted to the Commission for more on that. If you want to see the facts Hanley, I will be happy to show them to you. Oh, and the “killing your customers” thing has worked out pretty well for the tobacco companies, hasn’t it?

    • Certainly the providers make the big money on over plan contract usage and roaming charges. The people who come here in the summer spend money like drunken sailors and cell phone usage will be no different. Usurious rates do not phase them and AT&T plans to get in on the gravy – I get that. Whatever, they get the dough. I really don’t care how much the great ones make; I do try to limit how much they get from me. I have to stand corrected on the ” killing customers” thingy regarding big tobacco; however, the long range consequences are catching up with the tobacco companies and they are searching overseas to bolster flagging sales, so in the long run the “killing” does prove to be self defeating.

  6. I think one of the most disingenuous things in this entire process is the claim that the proposed tower is only 11 feet taller than the current temporary tower. Understand that the “temporary tower” is the least offensive thing AT&T could build. It was designed to lull you into a false sense that it’s “not so bad.” The proposed tower, with over 63 (7 per side X 3 sides = 21 per carrier X 3 carriers) externally mounted radiation centers, emitting up to 200 Watts of radiation each (12,600 Watts of radiation, day & night, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, bombarding every living thing for the next 20, 30, 50 years), is a very very different animal than the temporary tower. And all of that aerial detritus requires power and cooling, so the stuff on the ground, to power and cool all of that equipment (72,000 BTU’s per carrier) means that the noise, the maintenance, the ongoing construction will guarantee the peace and tranquility of the Enos Lots is destroyed forever. There are other, better locations on Chappy, in the woods, on higher ground, away from people’s homes where this tower can be sited. Why would you permit the destruction of our neighborhood when there are better alternatives? So some billionaire can execute hostile takeovers while his manservant serves him G&T’s on the veranda? I understand people want service, but we sure don’t need this tower on Sampson Ave to achieve it!

    • The proposal for the Sampson Ave tower is the only one we have after years and years of committees and dithering.

  7. And keep in mind, AT&T has YET to provide an actual rendering of what is being proposed. To date there have been at least 3 renderings, 2 photo simulations, all different and the one thing the MV Commission DID demand in this hearing, which is not reported here, is that AT&T provide the commission with an accurate, final rendering of EXACTLY what this proposed tower will look like. Just a little more fact to consider. And if you claim you don’t care what it looks like and you just want service? All the more reason to put it on the high ground where it can do the most good.

    • If there were a viable proposal to put the tower on higher ground I’m sure we would be considering it now. Right now we are dealing in the realm of the practical and possible.

  8. If Chappy were a pancake, a 60-foot tower might suffice. There’s a curious thing called “hills” to complicate, the maximum elevation on Chappy is 110 feet. Looking at a US Survey map, that’s Sampson Hill, elevation 30 feet, half a mile WNW of Sampson Avenue. The current tower is 140 feet on an elevation of 30 feet, that’s 170 feet, AT&T wants another 11 feet for 181. I suspect there’s a bit of cushion included to guarantee reaching Pease Point Way. What range do residents want?

  9. I forgot to mention that a quick check of the FCC website (www.FCC.gov) shows that Chappaquiddick is the single largest area in all of Southeastern New England eligible for funding under the Connect America Fund.

  10. Of course, that also means that AT&T could use Connect America Funds to build the DAS on Chappy, or use Connect America Funds to run the fiber optic cables and electrical service to an alternate site and use OUR money to build a tower in a location where it does the most good and causes the least harm to the neighborhood, the island and the town.

  11. Chappy is not a pancake, and Sampson Hill most certainly complicates the ability of a Sampson Ave tower to reach the Western and Southwestern areas of Chappy. Sampson Hill is NOT 30 feet in elevation it is 130 feet in elevation, the highest point in all of Edgartown. The site on Sampson Ave is not 30 feet above sea level it is 19-feet Above Sea Level. The proposed tower is supposed to be 117 feet. That is 147’ above sea level. (Source: AT&T Application).

    The two other leased sites (Source: Dukes County Registrar of Deeds, AT&T Application, Opposition Presentation) are at 59 feet above sea level and 55 feet above sea level. The AT&T Application, and the leases and plans on file with the Registrar of Deeds shows a similar 115 foot tower on those sites. So a tower at those proposed sites would be 174 or 170 feet above sea level. Both sites show significantly better coverage along both the Western and Southwestern shoreline. According to a Q&A published by MVWiFi, LLC the other towers in Edgartown are 180-feet and 220-feet respectively, and which, at roughly 5 miles, fail to meet the needs of Chappy. That is why, only by placing a tower on one of the 2 higher alternative sites, can a Chappy tower hope to achieve the coverage objectives sought for improved public safety across the entire island of Chappaquiddick.

    A quick look at the published coverage maps of Chappy from Sampson Ave show a lack of coverage all along the W, SW shoreline. Verizon’s maps of the same area show even less coverage due to it’s lower height on the tower (100′ AGL). Verizon is the most dominant cell carrier in the Northeastern US, owning about 80% of the market, meaning that statistically speaking, the majority of cell phones on Chappy at any given time are Verizon phones, and therefore Verizon coverage is even more important that AT&T’s technologically incompatible coverage. (Source: AT&T Application, Verizon Presentation, AT&T MVC supplemental report, Edgartown Cell Survey)

    The coverage maps are all public information, and my “Opposition Presentation,” online with the MVC (http://www.mvcommission.org/sites/default/files/docs/DRI 20662-M Chappy Perm Tower Correspondence R Strayton Slide Show 2017-11-16 red.pdf) shows a side-by-side comparison of the coverage maps for the 3 sites AT&T has leased on Chappy(including AT&T’s in-house 4-color coverage map for Sampson Ave). What is readily apparent is that the Sampson Ave site fails to provide adequate and meaningful coverage of Chappy. Roughly 78% of Chappy for AT&T, and less than 60% of Chappy for Verizon, and specifically fails to provide coverage along the populated Southwestern and Western shoreline, Wasque, and the area around Narragansett Ave, another of Chappy’s more populated year-round neighborhoods.

    According to testimony from Dan Goulet. RF Engineer, C2 Systems on behalf of both AT&T and Verizon, and given at both Edgartown Planning Board hearings and MVC hearings, today’s higher frequency cellular bandwidths have greatly diminished range over previous generations, so your coverage estimates are grossly inaccurate.

  12. I thought Chappaquiddick had three acre zoning? How is a 117 foot tower even allowed on a 5000 square foot residential lot of questionable title?

  13. Jasmine, I couldn’t agree more. There are plenty of places a cell tower could go, Town land, Trustee land (the Trustee garage at Wasque where it was originally going, oh, and the AT&T Alterative Site Analysis shows a 100′ tower there, smaller even than the current temp tower!) or one of the other privately owned 3+ acre sites where AT&T has leases signed!

    The Trustees have been a big instigator in the need for a cell tower to cover its private property. A DAS would serve the community, but wouldn’t cover the “beaches.” But those beaches are the private property of The Trustees. I have a lot of leaves in my yard. Should I expect the Trustees to come clean them up?

    So why, if the Trustees have a communication problem, should the people in my neighborhood bear the costs (social, economic, noise, construction, maintenance, repair, radiation) of their need for service?

    Placing a tower in the midst of a densely populated neighborhood has serious long-term consequence for the entire island. We are already seeing diminished home values in the Enos Lots. There is already a stigma attached to the Enos Lots as a result of these towers, and the proposed tower is only making it worse. That stigma, of the Enos Lots, only serves to further stratify Chappy into the “haves” and the “have to live with a cell tower in their yard’s.”

    There is so much wrong with any decision to site a cell tower in such close proximity to so many people, so close to the road, so close to the abutting houses. From a construction standpoint, a tower on Sampson Ave can’t be built to any of the industry norms and standards.

    And if you want to know what “without limits” means in the application, well just look at the MVC notes about AT&T’s ability to change any of the equipment, without limitations. Changes to air conditioning systems, which are too small to meet the cooling needs. Generators, too small to meet the power demands of the tower and 3 carriers. Resulting in excessive noise as AT&T tries to shoehorn this tower into that postage-stamp lot.

    And the ownership. A tower owned by MVWifi becomes an eyesore that only a lawsuit, and the removal costs borne by the taxpayers ever gets removed from Sampson Ave. And in contradiction of AT&T’s claims, the estimate from Cotton Tree Service to remove the temporary tower is nearly $70,000, today(yes, the temporary tower was erected by a tree service, not a certified tower erector!). So don’t tell me that a bigger tower, with the hazardous PCBs it contains, 20, 30, 50 years from now isn’t going to cost over $250,000 to take down, transport on BOTH ferries, and dispose of properly.

    There are plenty of other better sites, that offer better coverage, and have much less impact to Chappaquiddick, that the decision to site a tower on Sampson Ave, is at best reckless, at worst criminal!

    Learn the FACTS people. Sampson Ave is INSANE. And any politician that thinks it’s a good idea needs to be drummed out of office as either totally incompetent, or for being owned by AT&T and wealthy land-owners.

    AT&T, and others, have told a lot of lies, have obscured the truth, and now they are are trying to threaten us, now they are whining about being “penalized” WHAT?? AT&T has billions of dollars. AT&T has access to hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in Connect America Fund money, OUR money! Earlier I mentioned AT&T’s CEO’s compensation ($190M/yr) to understand any incremental costs to AT&T, to site a tower somewhere else on Chappy, is literally a rounding error in its tax-deductible construction budget. The costs, are what AT&T’s CEO makes during his lunch-break for one DAY!

    Why Samspon Ave? It doesn’t offer the best coverage, the most public safety to the most people, so why Sampson Ave? It’s the cheapest and easiest thing for AT&T, and our politicians to do! Demand better!

  14. Oh.. and there is another post I had written last week. I quote the RAN Engineers that were discussing the DAS. The MV Times won’t publish it because I directly quoted it from one of the thousands of emails AT&T gave me (even cited the specific document number), that AT&T knows I have. That I am free to distribute to anyone that wants more information about this tower. If they won’t publish it, email me at robstrayton@gmail.com and I will be happy to send you the emails that prove EVERYTHING I have said.

  15. There is a TOTALLY viable option to place the tower on higher ground, in the woods, away from people’s homes. AT&T has leases signed with 2 other property owners on Chappaquiddick. Brian Grossman when asked at the MVC Hearing November 5, 2017 whether there was anything that would prevent AT&T from siting the tower on one of those alternative lots stated that AT&T has signed leases and there is nothing that would prevent a tower from being built on either site. There ARE totally viable, totally possible, totally practical alternatives to Sampson Ave! http://www.masslandrecords.com/Dukes/

    • The fact that no one has offered to do business on those other sites should clue Mr. Strayton that they are NOT viable. possible or practical to the people who matter, in addition to which those other sites are near to owners who have the resources and will to litigate for the next 75 years.

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