The Edgartown planning board voted 4-1 Tuesday night in favor of erecting a permanent 115-foot monopole cell tower proposed by AT&T on Sampson Avenue on Chappaquiddick.
As part of a longstanding saga, board member Fred Mascolo said this is the longest permitting process the board has seen to date.
“There has been nothing quick about this one,” Mascolo said. “The committees did a lot of work, and did a great job researching this topic.”
Mascolo said his focus during the ongoing deliberations has been public safety and how it is essential for citizens of Chappy to be able to contact emergency services. He referred to Hanley Clifford, a Chappy resident who almost lost his leg in a chainsaw accident, but was able to call 911 through the current temporary tower. Mascolo said that because some areas of Chappy are very remote, it is that much more important that cell service is available. “We have fishermen and beachgoers out there where there is no cell reception,” Mascolo said. “Communication is the future of everything, and this tower ensures that the people of Chappy have access to it.”
Mascolo commended Rob and Dana Strayton for their efforts in opposition to the tower, but said the pros of the tower outweigh the cons: “It was a valiant effort on the Straytons’ part, but we need this tower.”
Rob and Dana Strayton have been vehemently opposed to the tower since plans were proposed to the planning board in March 2016.
Scott Morgan, a member of the board, said he is happy with the presentation AT&T made, and thinks the benefits of the tower outweigh any drawbacks. “What it boils down to is a question of public safety,” Morgan said. “The temporary tower is already there.”
Morgan also said he has a lot of respect for the Straytons and their representation of other Chappy residents who are against the tower, but said additional communication is a good decision.
Sam Sherman, the planning board’s chairman, said this tower is an opportunity for the people of Chappy. “For Chappy to have improved emergency services like fire and police, I think the positives will outweigh the negatives.”
Lucy Morrison, the lone opponent, had a staunchly opposing viewpoint from the rest of the board. “If this application gets approved, it will go against the whole reason we have bylaws,” Morrison said. “This goes against everything that bylaws and zoning go to protect.”
Morrison said she would prefer to see the tower on town-owned land. “The fact that alternative sites for this tower are available speaks for itself,” she said.
The board also had to determine whether to use a monopole design, or whether to camouflage the pole as a pine tree or “monopine.”
Morgan said although the monopine attempts to blend into the surrounding foliage, it may be more obtrusive in this particular site because of the lack of tall trees. “What pine tree is 115 feet tall?” he said.
A vote was taken to approve the monopole design, with all members in favor besides an abstention from Morrison, who said she thinks a monopine would be better, but she “didn’t want a tower in the first place.”
The application will be decided on and signed by the planning board at its regular meeting next Tuesday, at which point planning board assistant Doug Finn will submit a formal document of decision to the town clerk’s office. After the decision is submitted, a 20-day appeal period will begin. If an appeal is made, the process will again be put on hold until the appeal is reviewed.
Dana Strayton told The Times Chappy deserves better than to have a massive tower in one of the most densely populated areas on the small Island. “We have not lost sight of that fact, and this is far from over, this is just the beginning,” she said.
Attorney for AT&T Arthur Kreiger said he believes the site is the best location for the tower, and will minimize obtrusiveness while providing the maximum amount of cell coverage.