Edgartown planning board gives OK for Chappy tower

Opponents have 20 days to appeal decision.

This 104 foot temporary monopole on Sampson Ave will be replaced by a 115-foot cell tower after receiving the blessing of the Edgartown planning board. — Gabrielle Mannino

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.


  1. Sorry news hate to break it to you but this was never the issue.

    Bravo Lucy Morrison! The only planning board member that discerned, called out and dealt with the REAL ISSUE — “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.” AMEN!

    THAT HAS BEEN THE ONLY ISSUE. THIS TOWER SHOULD BE ON TOWN LAND. Nobody ever argued about whether communications or safety were a good thing. That child-like chanting are those who reduced and diverted the issue. It is like saying roads make things safe so let’s put them everywhere. — IT WAS NEVER THE ISSUE HERE.

    Simply put after all this time the approving planning board have proved their assessment has been flawed, superficial, and tremendously short-sighted. As well they have ruined the only densely populated neighborhood on Chappy by subjecting it to environmental and health hazards. If these by-laws can be so easily ignored and so easily trampled what is next?

    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.

  2. Allowing a cell tower on this pre existing undersized lot in close proximity to and within the fall zone of residences makes no sense when the town owns at least 4 properties that are better situated and the town would derive revenue which could be approximately $30,00 per year. This site only provides coverage to the east side of Chappy, while other sites offer better coverage due to higher terrain. By the way, approval of this site sets the precedent for approving a tower in Katama, which is also not in compliance, but will likely be proposed again, which will provide
    coverage to South Beach and the North west side of Chappy. I do agree with Lucy “why do we have Zoning” if it doesn’t mean anything.

  3. Once again here come the wordsmiths — Hanley, all of Chappy and likely the free world are “ok” with “a” tower on Chappy so there is communications, safety and reasonable cost for these things.

    The majority of people in your neighborhood which is the most densely packed neighborhood on chappaquiddick are not in favor of the tower and strongly believe that it should be placed on town properties which have proven to deliver better coverage. So let’s stay on the issue — it is the location — alternate town owned sites were provided and ignored. So let’s keep the “spin” down to the level of facts and stay on the issue. The location is the problem and it was never properly conceived.

  4. The issue has always been this LOCATION, not “A” tower per se. The facts of the matter are there a better, safer, more complaint sites that are less impactful. Those are facts, and they are not in dispute. Those better sites provide better coverage, provide greater public safety benefits to more of Chappy and to more of Edgartown: Better. More compliant; Alternative sites on larger town-owned parcels, or even the larger private parcels AT&T has under lease, are more complaint with the R-120 zoning on Chappy. Lucy and Islander are right. Placing this tower on this lot opens the door to a cell tower on any 1/2 acre lot anywhere in Edgartown. If you can build this massive tower on a tiny little 1/2 acre lot on Chappy (Edgartown), how do you now deny a tower on a 1/2 acre, or 1 acre residential lot in Katama in the R-60? You can’t. That’s the point. Bylaws exist for a reason, and the reason as Lucy so bravely stated was to prevent exactly this kind of massively non-conforming development on a tiny lot in a densely populated neighborhood. Less impactful: alternatives sites mitigate the dangers, the impacts from a tower by moving the noise, construction and fall zone away from so many neighboring properties. It’s interesting there is an article on the dangers posed by hurricanes in this issue (notice the quote about cell phones going down, and staying down!), and Hanley you strongly recommend cutting down trees, what do we do when a category 3 hurricane bears down on the Vineyard?? Are you going to cut down the cell tower, for everyone’s safety? It’s ludicrous. Even if the tower itself could withstand a hurricane (and that is very questionable (120MPH for 3 seconds), ask the people of Puerto Rico if towers come down? And keep in mind, Puerto Rico is not a glacial moraine, it is not a sand bar, Chappy is!) the appurtenances on it; the 100 lb radiation centers hanging 120′ in the air over our homes are deadly projectiles! Hell, the ice that can form on that tower is a silent killer that can kill people and animas on the public right-of-way, and on neighboring properties. The impacts of this tower are incredible! Perhaps most importantly, cell tower siting experts like David Maxson, and city planners, like Jon Witten even Supreme Court Justices have all said this location makes no sense. There are better, safer, more complaint, less impactful locations. Anyone that loves Marthas’s Vineyard and Chappaquiddick, and who feels as a town, as a community, as human beings, we can do a lot better than placing a massive industrial complex in the heart of a neighborhood, I would ask you to contact me as we all work together to find a sane and rational solution to cell service on Chappy. robstrayton at gmail dot com

  5. Islandsogs2 AT&T leased two other properties on Chappy, 14 Jeremiah Rd (3.1 acres, 2 homes within 500′) and 2 Majane Lane (4.34 acres, 1 home within 500′, surrounded by 65+ acres of woods). AT&T testified repeatedly that it would go to one of the alternative sites, then backtracked on that. There was of course a 2015 RFP issued by the town to construct “cellular facilities” on town land. There were three respondents to that 2015 RFP (AT&T was not one) all proposed towers, all proposed a town owned parcel directly abutting 2 Majane Lane, that site, 29 Old Indian Trail is 7.7 acres, surrounded by 58+ acres of woods with no homes within 1000 feet. But, in 2011, AT&T did survey Chappy it produced a report, on file with the Edgartown Planning Board that stated 29 Old Indian Trail was “the best location on Chappy to site a tower.” That report showed a 120′ tower at Old Indian Trail would cover 16.51 square miles. Every inch of Chappy, as well as South Beach down to the Great Pond, Katama out to the West Tis Rd, downtown Edgartown as well as the waters East and South of MV. So the long, fact-based answer is that yes, AT&T did on several occasions before the MVC and the Planning Board say it was willing to build on an alternative site. The argument against Sampson Ave became pretty compelling, and at that point AT&T dug in its heels and claimed only Sampson. The fact is, the three respondents to the 2015 RFP are still perfectly willing and able to construct a tower on Old Indian Trail or one of the other large wooded town-owned sites on Chappy. In direct contradiction of testimony from the Board, the Cell Committee and others, there exists not simply alternative sites, better, safer, more complaint and less impactful sites, but there are also alternative developers waiting and willing To build a tower on Chappy. That is the long, and fact-based answer to your question.

  6. And for the record, the “majority” of residents in the Enos lots and surrounding streets do object to this tower in this location. Some in the neighborhood support this tower, some are neutral, most object, because it is a totally inappropriate location. There are alternative sites that provide better coverage to more of Chappy, that are more complaint with the Bylaws, and less impactful overall to everyone.

  7. If there is a developer ready to build a tower on 29 Old Indian Trail, now would be a good time to pony up——————no, I didn’t think so.

    • Yes, Hanley, there is a developer ready and willing to build a tower at 29 Old Indian Trail, in fact there is more than one. Just more facts.

  8. And just to clarify, the developer at 29 Old Indian Trail would pay rent to the town, as well as share revenue from the carriers with the town. They would build a “stealth” tower in keeping with the bylaws, and provide equipment to the police and fire department. The tower there would remain under the control of the town and the taxpayers. So in all, a tower at Old Indian Trail would be more compliant with zoning and the Bylaws, offer greater benefits to the town, offer better coverage of Chappy and Edgartown, improve communications for EMS and have a lesser overall impact on Chappy and Edgartown. I have spoken with those developers, the Town is aware of those communications, so yes, there are absolutely alternative developers willing to build a tower on Old Indian Trail.

    • Then let your “developer” come forward from your fertile imagination into the light with his proposal, to include his identification, or as the saying goes, “forever hold his peace”. Before your recent arrival on Chappaquiddick this issue has been masticated for years (to a gruel). Welcome to the discussion – but the ship has sailed.

  9. The developers have already come forward. With all due respect, the temporary tower application was 35 days from application to approval, not so much a mastication to gruel, perhaps more of a nibble (verifiable)? Before that the majority was supposition and conjecture (verifiable). I base my information upon verifiable fact. The fact? Sampson Ave is never, and can never be, an appropriate location for a tower on Chappy (verifiable). That is simply fact. Supported by innumerable experts (verifiable). While I appreciate you are looking out, and the mouthpiece, for your buddy, the facts are there are alternative sites on Chappy, both private property AT&T has under lease (verifiable), and public land (verifiable) that are more compliant with the Bylaws (verifiable), less impactful to the island, the town and residents (verifiable). Those are facts. Also a fact, the town knows who those alternative developers are (verifiable), and they know they are willing to build a tower on town land (verifiable). A tower, on town land, under the control of the town and its citizens, that provides income to the town, offers better coverage and better public safety benefits to the public, and police and fire, is a better alternative (not just verifiable, but plainly obvious to all).

    So here is a question, to the resident expert on all things Sampson Ave tower: If the tower were to be built, how long before your buddy sells his property to one of the large tower management companies, and abandons you, and Chappy, leaving the neighborhood with a massive industrial development, a dangerous tower looming over numerous neighboring homes, devastated property values and the noise and ongoing construction a tower like this entails? I have it on pretty good authority that timetable is two-years. Care to answer that question?

  10. Though I have said this numerable times before, I guess it bears saying once again: I am hardly new to Chappy. Yes, I did have to work a lifetime to earn and save the money to buy my home there (I am sure others can relate to that?). I bought my home long before there was ever any mention of a cell tower on Sampson Ave. But most importantly, I made a conscious decision to live on Chappy, to be a part of this community specifically for its uniqueness and untamed beauty.

    Personally, I was fine without cell service on Chappy, but I have never once said we should not have service. And while my personal preference would be a less intrusive alternative like DAS, have never said there should not be a tower on Chappy. I have simply always maintained a tower belongs in an appropriate location. One compliant with the Bylaws, less impactful to the community, that offers better public safety benefits without the innumerable detriments of Sampson Ave. Better, safer, more compliant, less impactful.

    Now, with the help of numerous neighbors and Chappaquidickkers, I am working hard to preserve its beauty, working hard to steward Chappaquiddick not simply for those that live there now, but to preserve and protect one of the most special and unique places on earth for the generations that follow. It is those future generations that matter, not you and me, Hanley. Perhaps a little less self-righteousness, a little less selfishness, and a lot more respect for your obligations to the future generations would permit you to see the absolute ridiculousness of a Sampson Ave tower?

  11. This from Rich Salzberg’s recent (9/13/18) article: “Hurricanes a threat to the Vineyard? You bet”
    “Unlike in the recent past era of landlines, which Christensen described as rarely failing even after terrible weather, absent a satellite phone, Islanders shouldn’t expect mobile phone use.”

    “Cell phones won’t be coming back for a long time, and they’ll go out early,” he said.”

    Just something to ponder when one considers safety on Chappaquiddick. Reliance on technology, specifically a single form of technology is never a good idea. Prudence dictates that one have a hard-wired landline phone on Chappy, or really anywhere, for use in times of extremis. Cell phones are a nice adjunct, but over-reliance on cell phones, whether for the public, or police and fire, is a sure recipe for tragedy.

    • A new level of ridicularity, Mr. Strayton: a “hard wired” landline on Chappy or any where else has wires hanging from poles and is just as vulnerable as any other utility.

      • I’m just quoting from the article and the direct quote from John Christensen, PIO for the Island emergency managers, but of course you would be more knowledgeable about emergency procedures than him. Still doesn’t change the well documented fact that over-reliance on technology has led to many tragedies. Consider the high school kid trapped in his minivan in Ohio a couple of months ago, even with good service, and police in the area looking for him, he died. https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/12/us/ohio-teen-pinned-minivan-trnd/index.html

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