Nearly 400 residents attended a special town meeting on Thursday, December 8, held at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
Lenox — Nearing the end of the special town hall meeting held Thursday, Dec. 8 at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School, residents voted on the long-standing wireless zoning bylaw. The results were 251 yes against 147 no.
However, the bylaw required a two-thirds majority of all residents present at the meeting to pass, which the measure failed to achieve and was therefore voted down.
Members of the city’s planning board have been working on the bylaw for more than two years, while a group of opponents of the proposed bylaw have been vocal for months. A group called The Citizens For Safe Cell Siting, also known as SafeCell 01240, campaigned against the proposed settlement, sending out postcards urging residents to vote against the settlement.
The proposed bylaw would have set 250 feet as the minimum setback distance between all newly installed cell towers and the nearest residential property line. However, the group says the setback is not enough and, according to one of the group’s documents, “we will face 24/7 radiation coming through the walls of our homes” if the cell towers cell phones are installed too close to properties. .
Planning Council Chairman Tom Delasco presented the proposed settlement to the public and said the council used two different consultants in its creation “who guided the council through the maze of federal law and the technical nature of wireless communications infrastructure. Delasco explained, “We also reviewed countless documents, compared bylaws from many other cities, read studies, listened to voters, and made adjustments along the way. The Planning Board believes that this by-law strikes a delicate balance between the need for additional wireless service coverage and also limits the intensity of this commercial type to be used in our primarily residential community. Certain portions of federal law will limit the authority of local governments to regulate wireless communication facilities. A [part of the federal law] states that the regulation of wireless service facilities by any state or local government shall not prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the provision of personal wireless services. The other reason: no state or local government can regulate wireless service facilities based on the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions.
Delasco said the city’s current bylaw does not comply with federal law because it limits the placement of wireless infrastructure to just five specific parcels along the vicinity of Route 7 and the city’s 20 corridors. He said the city has three cell towers, but “that leaves large parts of the city with poor service and does not provide citywide coverage.” Delasco continued, “The new bylaw complies with federal laws and opens up more parts of the city to potential infrastructure, which would allow for citywide coverage. It also grants discretion to the zoning appeal board and provides for broad public review and comment during a special permit process. All applications for new facilities go through the special permit process through review by the Zoning Appeal Board.
Delasco added that as part of the application process, any request to install a cell tower on city-owned land would have to be approved by residents at a town meeting.
The first public speaker to speak on the proposed settlement was Scott Barrow, who opposed it. “What we’re basically looking for is that it’s not a wireless telecommunications regulation, it turns into a communications plan, which is a whole other animal,” Barrow said. “I’m one of those who believe that hanging out next to a cell tower isn’t good for you. That’s how a lot of people in this room feel and no one will want us to have their house next to them. a cell phone tower.
Resident John Gibson argued for passage of the proposed bylaw. “Universally, cell phones have become our lifeline to family, friends and emergency personnel in the world beyond our doors,” Gibson said. “What happens when a loved one has a medical emergency and there is no cell service? What happens when a child urgently needs to reach a parent and there is no cell phone service? The proposed settlement brings the city into compliance with federal law and takes into consideration how other communities in the United States and around the world have dealt with service upgrades, and it provides equality, as well as security and connection for residents.
After comments from several residents both in favor and against the proposed settlement, resident Judy Moss put the matter to a vote, despite at least nine residents still in line at both podiums waiting to speak. Residents present at the meeting approved his motion and ultimately the proposed settlement was defeated due to the lack of a two-thirds vote.
After the meeting, planning board chairman Delasco said the board would return to work on another bylaw. “It’s not necessarily back to square one,” Delasco said. “We have something in place now and the board are confident it will hold, but we may need to make some adjustments.”
Delasco wouldn’t say what would be adjusted in the proposed settlement, but said he wasn’t happy about some misinformation that has spread around town. “I made an effort to try to fix some of that,” he said. “Efforts have been made, but I don’t think it’s enough.”
Residents Approve Funding for New Public Safety Facility, Sewage Treatment Plan Upgrade, Puppy Mill Ban
In other matters, the inhabitants adopted the other items on the agenda of the special municipal assembly. Residents passed an article that will allow the city to spend $25 million to build a new public safety facility and potential rehabilitation of the city’s central fire hall and police station.
Residents also approved an article that allows the city to spend up to $45 million on an upgrade to the city’s sewage treatment plant due to numerous phosphorus issues and to meet requirements. of the State with regard to the discharge of waste water.
An article amending city bylaws to ban the sale of puppy mill animals passed unanimously.
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