After deliberating for nearly an hour, the Edgartown planning board ended a six-year permitting odyssey and approved the AT&T permanent cell tower on Chappaquiddick, 4-1.
Conditions such as construction schedule and design of the pole will be negotiated between AT&T representatives and planning board assistant Georgiana Greenough. The board will discuss the conditions when it convenes to sign the formal decision, but members cannot discuss the matter amongst themselves until then. Flexibility to the construction schedule — to commence work within one year of the town clerk stamping the decision — needs to be added because of pending litigation. There is litigation over the Martha’s Vineyard Commission approval, and Sampson Avenue abutter Robert Strayton told the board it can count on more litigation as he left the meeting.
John Elder, attorney with Cambridge-based Anderson & Kreiger, which represents AT&T in this deal, said AT&T is applying for a year extension for the permit of the temporary tower, to May 2019, in anticipation of litigation.
Public safety benefits pushed the project over the permitting finish line.
“This has been a lengthy process to get to this point; the worst thing that can happen is to wait,” board member Fred Mascolo said. “Everybody involved with public safety wants it. Would I want it in my backyard? No. But it’s already saved five lives. This has been talked about for six years. It’s the longest we’ve talked about anything. I would have liked to see it at the fire station so the income would have gone to the town, but people complained they didn’t want to see a tower there. There’s already a tower [on Sampson Avenue].”
Board member Michael McCourt agreed with Mascolo.
“This went through the [MVC] in detail, the same stuff, over and over. I saw a majority of public definitely wanted it in that site. That’s why we’re here, to serve the good of the public. When you live on a place like Chappy, time is essential.”
Lucy Morrison cast the dissenting vote. “I have questions about Majane Lane,” she said. “They were required to submit alternative sites; I don’t think they were vetted well enough.”
“It’s not our call to tell AT&T where to put their tower,” Greenough said. “We had seven properties, owned by the town, in good locations, and we couldn’t get them approved. We don’t do options, we do what is presented to us. If you don’t like it you can vote against it.”
The board debated whether AT&T stated it would only build on the Sampson Avenue site.
Dan Bilezikian, site acquisition specialist working for AT&T, confirmed to the board that “Sampson Avenue is the best location and the one we want you to vote on.”
“We kept saying it’s our responsibility as a board to try to accomodate all the areas of Edgartown; that includes Chappy,” Greenough said. “There’s a tower on [Sampson Avenue] already, maybe the second one that’s a little higher wouldn’t be a problem. I think the town bent over backwards to find an accomodation, and this was the only one that turned up.”
Planning board alternate and North Road homeowner Scott Morgan said he probably lives closer to a cell tower than anyone in the room, and it had never adversely affected his quality of life, nor had it hurt property values, which he said have skyrocketed. “It was there when I built my house. If you don’t think about it, you don’t even notice it,” he said. “AT&T has been great, they work quietly and keep it clean. It has not affected my life or my neighborhood negatively at all.”
Last month, the board stopped short of voting after extensive deliberations so they could get clarity on possible alternate locations.
The permanent tower is 11 feet taller than the current 104-foot temporary tower, which is also located on Robert Fynbo’s property at 14 Sampson Ave.
When work eventually begins, AT&T estimates it will take eight weeks to replace the temporary antenna with the permanent one.