West Tisbury ZBA sets October 11 for Verizon cell tower hearing


The West Tisbury Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) will hold a public hearing at 5:15 pm on Thursday, October 11, regarding a proposal from Verizon to erect a cell tower on private property owned by Robert Doane on New Lane. The public hearing was tentatively scheduled for September 27, but was changed to ensure a quorum of ZBA board members.

West Tisbury’s zoning bylaw, as amended April 12, includes 27 pages under Section 8.8 regarding “personal wireless service facilities.” A cell tower requires a special permit from the ZBA before one can be erected.

After the public hearing, Verizon’s permit application will be referred to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for review as a development of regional impact (DRI), according to ZBA chairman Tucker Hubbell. The commission’s DRI checklist for referrals includes new wireless communications towers.

Mr. Doane, a resident of West Tisbury, told The Times in August that he signed a contract with Verizon about 15 months previously to lease part of his property in a heavily wooded area for the tower. Mr. Doane said Verizon contacted him by letter about four years ago with the proposal, which the company said was needed to boost cell phone coverage in West Tisbury’s dead zone.

Rich Enright, Director of Network Performance, Northeast Region, for Verizon Wireless, provided details about the proposed cell tower and site in a phone conversation with The Times last week.

“Our intention here is to provide a couple of miles of new service in each direction from that location, which is in an area where there is really not much of anything now,” Mr. Enright said.

He said Mr. Doane’s property previously was used as a “Cell on Wheels” location, a fully functional, generator-powered mobile cell site that enhances coverage and capacity in a given area, during President Barack Obama’s summer visits.

“That location was a lot more visible from the road, however,” he explained. “The one we’re proposing for the new cell tower is in the woods on that same property, so we’re hoping that limits the visual impact.”

Mr. Enright said the trees around the site are approximately 50 feet tall, and that the cell tower would be between 70 to 80 feet tall.

“That will be up for debate and comment, and we’re going to remain flexible on the overall height and exactly what is sticking above the trees, whether it’s a typical monopole or some other style,” Mr. Enright said. “They all have pluses and minuses, depending on who’s looking at them and how they feel about those kinds of things. We’ll wait to hear public comment and what the board and public would like us to do.”

Mr. Enright said the cell tower would be located 500 feet from the nearest property line. A fenced-in 12 by 30 foot Cape Cod-style building at the base of the tower will house radio equipment and a back-up generator. It will be run once a week or every two weeks, for about an hour during the day, to make sure it is functional. Mr. Enright said the tower will be able to withstand winds of 120 mph.

Mr. Enright said a Verizon Wireless engineer would attend the October 11 public hearing to describe the new tower and coverage, how it would connect to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport facility, why the West Tisbury site was chosen, and other questions people might have. Also, an attorney representing Verizon will attend the hearing to go through the company’s application to the ZBA for a permit and to explain how Verizon Wireless will meet the town’s zoning requirements.

The Times asked Mr. Enright if Verizon Wireless would be looking to do more of these projects on Martha’s Vineyard.

“Cape Cod is obviously a very unique place, and as a result, there are a few more things that have to be addressed, there are more boards that have to be consulted, than there might be in Boston or some place else,” Mr. Enright said. “But we always try to extend coverage.”

Verizon Wireless spent about $3 billion since 2000 in New England to increase capacity at existing sites, add new technology, boost coverage, and maintain reliability, he noted.