PLYMPTON – On Tuesday, July 10, the Zoning Board of Appeals held a continued hearing on a proposed 120-foot, lattice-style telecommunications tower at the corner of Palmer Road and Center Street. The hearing drew several concerned residents, including those whose homes fall within several hundred feet of the proposed tower. Industrial Tower and Wireless of Marshfield, the telecommunication tower builder, represented by their attorney Jeffrey Angley, was present with new material for the ZBA. They also responded to inquiries from the board and residents.
ZBA chairman Kenneth Thompson allowed the company to present new and updated material first. The company performed a “balloon test,” in which a balloon was floated on string up to 120 feet June 26, and then photographed from different angles to simulate the visibility of the proposed structure.
While the company representatives claimed that the balloon was invisible or only barely visible at several of the 12 locations photographed, including from Town House more than half a mile away, residents – and board members – took issue with this.
ZBA members and residents came armed with photographs.
“I know it’s business zoned, but a lot of people live nearby,” said Carolyn Bartlett, a property owner who would directly face the 20-foot access road to the proposed tower. “Just to give you the benefit of the doubt, I think you took your photo when the balloon was blowing, because all of [my photos] showed the balloon.”
“I’m not proposing they’re invisible, they’re visible,” conceded Angley. “We were pretty pleased from how it looked from abutting properties,” said a colleague from the company.
The company also presented a report from an MIT scientist on the radiation effects of such a telecommunications tower, which they claim is all within FCC guidelines, a revised site plan including a wider access road per the request of the fire department and a letter from the Massachusetts Historical Commission claiming that the tower would have no impact on any historical sites.
Bartlett, who worked as a real estate agent for many years until retiring, suggested that the tower would reduce property values. “Whether it’s scientific or not, it’s emotional. [The tower is] going to impact decisions. It’s common sense.”
Another resident present, Rosemary German, of 63 Palmer Road, said her garage is approximately 220 feet from the center of the tower, the closest abutter.
“I don’t believe it belongs, or they wouldn’t be here asking for variances,” she said. In an impassioned plea to the ZBA, noting that she came to Plympton for its rural character, German emphatically said several times to the board, “We depend on you to protect us.”
German raised several concerns, including noting that an endangered species of turtle is known to breed in the area.
Angley suggested that considering endangered species in their decision was outside the purview of the ZBA.
When German raised concerns about possible health effects, including cancer, Angley also stated that this was outside the purview of the ZBA.
According to Angley, federal law preempts state and local laws in telecommunications, and that gaps in service are required by federal law to be filled. Angley claims there is no other place to go, including other properties or even the church steeple, which they claimed was investigated for this purpose and rejected.
Another resident noted that, “Anecdotally, we have no problem [with cellphone service].”
The meeting eventually descended into confusion over exactly how to measure from the tower to abutting properties, and the board wished to notify an even wider swath of residents, within 800 feet of the center of the tower to the edge of their property lines.
This is more notification than is required by Plympton bylaws, but the board expressed that they wanted to make sure all those affected were aware of the situation.
The applicants were not pleased, pushing back on the further notification and delays.
Robert German, also of 63 Palmer Road, said, “They don’t care about human life, animal life…they’re just here to make money.”
Industrial Tower and Wireless representatives acknowledged that no one at the hearing was on their side. Nonetheless, they vowed to continue to push forward.
The ZBA will conduct a site visit within the next two weeks, and the hearing was continued until 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 24.