TOWN OF NEW SALEM PUBLIC HEARING REGARDING SPECIAL PERMIT APPLICATION TO MAINTAIN AND OPERATE WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS TOWER AND ACCESSORY FACILITIES LOCATED AT 675 DANIEL SHAYS HIGHWAY, NEW SALEM MEETING MINUTES January 9, 2014 Stowell Building, 19 South Main St., New Salem Planning Board Members Present: Hugh Field, Chair; David Cramer; Ken Bright; Sharon Field (Associate Member) Planning Board Members Absent: Carl Seppala, Jeff Lett Other Attendees: Nicole Sears, Assistant to the New Salem Planning Board Clerk; Dan Klasnick, Attorney for applicant; Jeff Adams; Arthur Adams; Henry Cramer; Joe Cuneo, New Salem Fire Chief; Rose Lyman; Glen Lyman; Carol Bright; Wayne Hachey; Kaitlin Mitchell, Athol Daily News. Hearing called to order at 7:30 pm. Hugh Field read the legal notice, then explained the hearing protocol and special permit process. Dan Klasnick summarized the project for his client including a description of the expired special permit, the tower itself, and the current application which had been prepared in collaboration with the Planning Board to address concerns around an existing rather than a new communications tower. Mr. Klasnick stated that his client would like the board to “renew” or “extend” the special permit with unlimited duration. He pointed out that other towers have unlimited duration permits and asked what is served by having a limited term. Ken Bright and Henry Cramer explained how the current application is a new application and not a “renewal.” Mr. Cramer pointed out that there is no provision under state law for extension or renewal of special permit. It was agreed that that was why they have submitted the application leaving out the portions that are not relevant to an existing tower. Ken Bright expressed his opinion that unlimited duration is not appropriate given the quick advance of technology, and the possibility that there may be unforeseen circumstances that require town input. Mr. Klasnick countered that if the tower becomes obsolete and is abandoned because it is no longer utilized, the application already requires and there exists a bond to pay for removal. Mr. Bright clarified that he was talking about change not abandonment. Mr. Klasnick pointed out that, based on his experience, most permits that are limited are usually limited to 10 or 15 years, not 3 as in the original permit. Mr. Cramer recollected that at the time of the first permit, cell phone technology was very new and as they were unsure of the consequences, they imposed a short time limit as a sort of trial. Joe Cuneo voiced the issue that some sort of generating capacity needs to be added to tower. If the electricity goes out, there is only a four hour battery backup. This is an overriding public safety issue. Ken Bright gave a description of many of the public safety issues that could arise and have arisen when storms knock out the electricity in town, and communication is crippled. Mr. Klasnick explained that his client owns the tower and not the antennae. They manage the towers and rent space to providers, such as Sprint (the provider on the tower in question). Crown Castle has a website through which carriers contact them about renting space on one of their towers. Each carrier has its own protocol for emergencies. Many carriers do set up generators as a matter of course. Sprint, possibly because it is a smaller carrier and needs to be very careful about costs, does not. Sprint typically has smaller footprint on towers. AT&T has larger units and deploys a generator. Sprint’s emergency protocol is to use batteries (up to 4 hour duration) and deploy a generator if it becomes necessary. Mr. Cuneo stated that it has become necessary. Most people in New Salem rely on Sprint for cell phone, many have Sprint internet, and there is also need for internet access for emergency vehicles Sharon Field asked if the tower owners could have a generator on site for their customers to rent. Mr. Hachey pointed out that solar panels could be used instead of a generator. Mr. Klasnick stated that even if there was a generator on site, they could not force their clients to hook up to it. He expressed his belief that the town’s best recourse is to direct our issue, as customers, to Sprint. Mr. Klasnick further stated that when the original special permit for the tower was approved, no generator was required. The Town Bylaw does not provide for a generator. The owners expected to operate as approved by original permit. Mr. Henry Cramer, who was on the Planning Board at the time, noted that there was a generator on the drawing presented at first public hearing. They were happy to have generator. But, no generator showed up in final plans. Ken Bright said the that minutes from the 2000 public hearing did show plans to include a generator. Mr. Klasnick asked to see the minutes from 7-19-00 reflecting the notation for a generator on the site plan displayed before the audience. He examined them, made some notes and then returned them. It was agreed that nothing could be done about that now since the approved permit application did not allude to a generator. Wayne Hachey asked if there was a reason there are no carriers other than Sprint on tower. Arthur Adams, stated that he had encountered people asking to rent on the tower and had been told that Sprint would not allow it. (Sprint was the original owner of the tower.) Mr. Klasnick stated that while he cannot speak to the specifics, his client, not Sprint, is engaged in the business of managing the tower and renting out space on the tower. Since it would mean more money for them, it can be assumed that they would be interested in renting to as many carriers as possible. (Note, there is an expansion capability on the tower.) It has been Mr. Klasnick’s experience that providers are cooperative about renting space on the same tower. All carriers are aware of where towers are located. He can only conjecture that the coverage plans/needs of other carriers are such that they don’t need space on this tower. Arthur and Jeff Adams talked about the need for a gate to restrict access. It was decided that this was not pertinent to the special permit and that Mr. Adams and Mr. Klasnick would take this up off-line. Ken Bright brought up issues of security. He had photos from a visit he, Hugh Field and David Cramer made to the tower where they found unsecured electrical components. Mr. Klasnick asked that Mr. Bright e-mail the photos so that he could look into it. Mr. Cuneo stated that the utility company usually brings in infrastructure and doesn’t usually even have fences. He further suggested that the Planning Board contact Jay Blackbird, the inspector, if electrical is unsecured because that is a code issue. In any event, it is not a negotiating point. Mr. Cuneo expressed his assessment that the town can’t force anyone to put in and use a generator. He recommended that the Planning Board impose a condition of a relatively short duration for the special permit and look into having the New Salem Zoning Bylaw changed to require a generator, if that is legal. People in town rely on the tower and like having it here. Sharon Field said that the Planning Board might be disinclined to grant a long term special permit not only for reasons Mr. Cuneo mentioned, but, also because the town had so much difficulty contacting Crown Castle. It was noted that Crown Castle only acted after a threat of legal action from the town. It was also noted that this was prior to Mr. Klasnick’s involvement. Jeff Adams, closest neighbor to tower, added that “They’ve [the tower people] been good neighbors.” His family relies on them for house phone, cell phone, and internet. So, maybe the special permit term should be greater than three years. Henry Cramer said he is in favor of tower and transmissions from it. Mr. Klasnick asked to hear possible conditions to the special permit. He would know sooner about any conditions that might be difficult for his client so that he could confer with them and possibly avoid having to appeal. Members of the Planning Board quickly reviewed the conditions from the original special permit. They noted that the term would be a matter for the Planning Board to discuss further. The removal bond condition should be indefinite. The provision for emergency services should be more specific. Other than that, no substantive changes to the original conditions are anticipated. It is, of course, left to deliberation and vote by the Planning Board. Nicole Sears gave Dan Klasnick a copy of the updated list of abutters that had been obtained by Hugh Field. The updated list is considered part of the application. The hearing was closed at 9:07pm.
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