Edgartown planning board approves Katama Farm cell antenna

A Katama Farm silo will be used to house a a cellular phone antenna. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The Edgartown planning board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a special permit for AT&T to install a cellular phone antenna inside a silo at Katama Farm.

The proposal attracted objections from neighbors concerned about the possible health effects of cellular phone signals and the possibility for decreased property values.

Town leaders said the antenna would improve and expand mobile phone service in the area and provide significant income.

The antenna would be housed inside an unused silo at the farm, so it would not be visible. AT&T would also build a small shed at the base of the silo to house equipment.

The federal Telecommunication Act of 1996 bars towns from arbitrarily rejecting an application to site a wireless facility. The act also prohibits towns from citing the perceived environmental or health effects of radio frequency emissions when objecting to the construction of towers.

While the law empowers cities and towns to control where the facilities are sited, town governments may not say no to any carrier. At the same time, the burden is on the carrier to demonstrate that there is a need for coverage and to make efforts to share wireless facility sites.

AT&T has offered to pay $28,000 to rent the space from the town for the first year. Each succeeding year the rent will increase by three percent. Over the 10-year lease, the town would realize $321,000 in revenue.