Following the advice of town counsel Ron Rappaport, the Edgartown planning board unanimously voted 5-0 to allow AT&T to withdraw, without prejudice, its application for a special permit for a permanent cell tower on Sampson Avenue on Chappaquiddick, at its regular meeting on Tuesday night.
“I’ve read more cases on this than I’d hoped to,” Rappaport told the board before the vote. “In 30 years, I’ve never had a situation like his. If the board approves a motion to withdraw, the process will unfortunately have to start all over again.”
Rappaport said Martha’s Vineyard Commission executive director Adam Turner had confirmed the permanent tower will not have to go before the MVC again, provided there are no changes to the proposed structure.
If the permanent cell tower is ever installed, it will be 11 feet taller than the current 104-foot temporary tower, with exterior antennas.
Although the board voted to approve the special permit for the permanent tower 4-1 on April 3, the validity of the vote came under scrutiny after it was discovered that board member James Cisek, who was an alternate until the untimely death of Robert “Coo” Cavallo on Jan. 1, had not attended some public hearings during the six-year process.
In light of the discovery, on April 12, lawyers for AT&T wrote a letter to the board asking to allow the application to be withdrawn.
Dianne Tillotson, attorney for Robert and Dana Strayton, staunch opponents of the tower who have already sued the MVC over its approval of the permanent cell tower, contended the actual vote was 3-1, short of the required 4-1 supermajority, and the permit should be considered denied.
Attorney Arthur Kreiger, representing AT&T, said if the board voted to allow the application to be withdrawn, AT&T would be willing to start the permitting process all over again, and asked the board to move apace.
“We request the process be expedited,” he said. “We don’t mean to truncate anybody’s rights. Let’s get on with it. There’s a long way between expediting fairly and taking one’s time.”
The board also voted unanimously to extend the special permit for the temporary cell tower until May of 2019, or six months after all litigation is resolved, with members citing importance of public safety and documented incidents where the temporary tower had enabled emergency communication.