Robert Strayton went before the Edgartown selectmen Monday to propose an alternative placement of the permanent Chappaquiddick cell tower on town-owned, forested land.
The tower, which has been a continued point of debate for the town, is proposed for Sampson Avenue, one of the most densely populated areas on Chappy, at a private residence owned by Robert Fynbo. Fynbo is the owner of Chappaquiddick Wireless Internet Service, a company he formed 35 years ago by erecting an 85-foot cell tower on his land. Now a 104-foot temporary tower stands next to the proposed build site. For the past 3 years, both the temporary tower and proposed permanent tower have been topics of contention between AT&T (the agreed service provider for the tower) and residents of Sampson Avenue.
Strayton, who has staunchly opposed the temporary tower since AT&T submitted plans to the Edgartown planning board in March 2016, told the selectmen parcels of town land are more viable options in lieu of the Sampson Avenue land.
Among suggested parcels were 29 Old Indian Trail, located on assessors’ parcel 34-247, and Cassat Way, located on assessors’ parcel 35-18. Strayton explained that Old Indian Trail is located on 7.7 acres of heavily wooded land and is 42 feet above sea level (according to Strayton, Fynbo’s lot is at 19 feet above sea level).
Strayton told selectmen he believes the location would have much less of an impact on the overall health and wellness of Chappy residents. Since the land is situated farther above sea level, the broadcast radius would be larger than on Sampson Avenue, according to Strayton. The Old Indian Trail location is, according to Strayton, far away from any residences, but would still provide a large service range.
A petition submitted by Strayton urging alternative placement of the tower had over 100 signatures.
Also part of Strayton’s submission was an architectural model diagraming the area of Sampson Avenue. The model showed the temporary 104-foot tower already on the land, as well as the proposed permanent tower. Colored circles radiating out from the permanent tower represented Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) “drop zones.”
According to Strayton, the first zone (indicated by an orange circle), is the zone in which equipment that falls from the tower is likely to hit the ground. The second zone is the “ice fall zone,” in which ice that falls from the tower will land. The third zone is the actual fall zone of the tower, if structural supports fail.
Strayton suggested this is a serious problem and poses a danger to surrounding residences.
Instead of AT&T, Strayton urged selectmen to consider Grain Communications.
The selectmen took the petition under advisement, although chairman Michael Donaroma told Strayton the issue is in the purview of the planning board.
On Tuesday, the planning board closed public input, saying the central purpose of the continued public hearing was to review a rebuttal from attorney Arthur Kreiger, who is representing AT&T in this case. Kreiger’s rebuttal served to discount many of the central facets for argument against the new permanent tower (made by several concerned Chappy residents). The board stated at its prior meeting that Kreiger’s rebuttal would be the only public comment heard.
Among these residents was Strayton, who brought his scale model to the hearing and, according to him, was prepared to provide further evidence of the tower being an imposition (and a danger) to the surrounding area.
Kreiger addressed Strayton’s point of the fall zone of the tower. He suggested the tower was explicitly designed not to topple over, even in very strong winds. He said the tower base is thicker than the upper part, therefore it would bend at the midpoint, instead of snapping at the base.
Kreiger said the tower would not have a substantial impact on property value because people “do not see things that are above the treetops.”
He also insisted there are no other viable options that would provide sufficient coverage (based on AT&T coverage maps).
After the meeting, Strayton said he was surprised the board would not allow him and his lawyer to submit more evidence for consideration. “I was prepared to show more proof that this is just plain wrong,” Strayton told The Times after the hearing.
David Maxson, co-founder of Isotrope LLC, is working with Strayton to fight against the tower. He has worked for nearly 30 years providing municipalities and organizations with support on wireless matters. He told The Times after the hearing that he too was prepared to show evidence proving the tower should not be allowed, and was disappointed when the board shut down the hearing so abruptly.
The board unanimously passed a motion to continue internal discussion regarding the tower, and established another public hearing date for Sept. 4 at 6 pm. At that point, the board will review findings and announce their plans going forward.