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.