T-Mobile gets no space for tower in Weymouth

By Ed Baker
GateHouse News Service
Posted Mar 18, 2010 @ 04:27 PM

Weymouth — T-Mobile’s request for a special permit and variance to construct a 100-foot monopole cell tower at 84 Liberty St. has been turned down by the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

The proposed communication device raised static among neighbors who live near the site during five public hearings, but only several homeowners were present when the ZBA decided 5-0 on March 17 to reject T-Mobile’s application.

“The application shows no alternative sites,” Chairman Richard McLeod said before the vote. “The applicant must show that there are no other places that could provide coverage in this area.”

T-Mobile previously argued that a monopole tower was needed on Liberty Street because a significant amount of its subscribers experience disconnected or “dropped” phone calls.

“What is problematic is that not one individual came forward to complain about a dropped call,” McLeod said.

Turning Mill Consultants conducted a peer review on behalf of T-Mobile and determined that the location was suitable for a monopole.

“There was no independent review done,” McLeod said.

He said that it is up to T-Mobile to prove to the ZBA that there is no other suitable location for the monopole.

“We are not trying to eliminate competition,” McLeod said.

T-Mobile previously sought to construct a 120-foot monopole on a site that is owned by Richard Hanabury, a local resident.

The zoning bylaws restrict cell towers to 35 feet.

Company officials also stated in its application that a variance to construct the tower was necessary because the proposed monopole would improve communication coverage to its subscribers in Rockland, Hingham, and Weymouth.

Many residents scorned the proposal during a series of public hearings in December, January, and February.

T-Mobile eventually agreed to reduce the structure to 100 feet and relocate it at 84 Liberty St., which is 2,500 feet away from Hanabury’s property.

In late January, company officials tethered a balloon at the Liberty Street site to determine if the proposed tower would be an eyesore to neighbors, but it failed to prevent them from opposing the application.

McLeod said that the proposed pole locations don’t appear to improve the communication gaps alleged by T-Mobile.

“I find it puzzling that a pole at the Hanabury site does not provide additional (communication) coverage in Rockland,” he said. “When I looked at the location of the tower in either site, it does not cover any major streets and thoroughfares.”

McLeod said that T-Mobile could achieve its communication capability goals by constructing a 100-foot tower a half-mile away in Hingham at Tri Corp.

“Tri Corp has a higher terrain than the Hanabury location,” he said. “There is nothing that indicates that Tri-Corp could not accommodate a 100-foot pole.”

McLeod said that the 84 Liberty St. location does not make sense because the terrain is 14 feet lower than the Hanabury property.

Board member Francis Kenneally said that T-Mobile’s plan does not appear to serve the public interest.

“There may be other sites that could be appropriate,” he said. “We have had plenty of testimony by residents that it would be detrimental to the neighborhood.”

McLeod said that he would vote against granting a variance and special permit because there are other alternative sites for the proposed monopole.

When the discussion ended, the ZBA then voted 5-0 in separate motions to deny a variance and special permit to T-Mobile.

District 6 Councilor Michael Smart said that the ZBA showed due diligence with its decision.

“They did a good job,” said Smart, who attended the meeting. “At the end of the day, they allowed both sides to speak for and against the proposal.”

He said that the decision capped five public hearings, a series of neighborhood meetings, and e-mail exchanges between residents and local officials since T-Mobile submitted its application eight months ago.

“The zoning board has a difficult task,” Smart said. “They did a great job allowing all residents to speak and allowing the proponent to bring information forward. There were certain criteria to be met with this project, and not all of the criteria were met.”

He said that T-Mobile did not exhaust all of the opportunities available to construct the monopole.

“They did not demonstrate that they were serious about going to those other sites,” Smart said. “I’m completely satisfied with the board’s decision.”