Mashpee Planning Board Rejects Proposed Cell Tower

MASHPEE – The Mashpee Planning Board rejected an application for a cell tower at the Fire Station 2 on Red Brook Road in a 3-2 vote at a meeting held last week.

The proposed tower, which would be 150 feet, would increase cell phone coverage in the southern part of Mashpee where service can be nonexistent at times.

Mary Waygan, chair of the planning board in Mashpee, presented information to support the board’s denial of the tower.

Waygan spoke about testimony and letters from residents and citizens who were concerned over the potential impact the tower would have on the property value of neighboring homes in the area.

She also noted the failure of the developers of the tower, Blue Sky Towers II, LLC, to establish that less intrusive alternatives are not available, along with Mashpee zoning bylaws as major reason the board rejected the tower, among other issues.

Those who voted against the tower also argued that earlier decisions by the Zoning Board of Appeals were unfounded.

The zoning board decision has been appealed to Barnstable Superior Court.

Waygan argued that the Zoning Board of Appeals did not have the authority to grant Blue Sky Towers a variance on the height of tower and that that matter should have been brought to the planning board instead.

John Phelan, a member of the planning board and Mashpee’s deputy fire chief, voted in favor of the tower and said that it was a matter of public safety.

Phelan also noted that the tower would base a radio repeater for use by emergency services.

Joseph Callahan joined Phelan in voting to approve the project.

Board members Dennis Balzarini and Joseph Cummings joined Waygan in voting against the project.

Public safety officials, as well as residents who spoke in favor of the tower during public hearings cited the tornado which struck Cape Cod this summer.

“The people who come in this area, whether they’re visiting here, whether they’re living here, they’re expecting there cellphone to work,” Fire Chief Thomas Rullo said earlier this month at a public hearing.  

“There’s a lot things that the cellphone does, but for me I only have one concern, and it’s the concern that I was hired for and that’s to deliver a service and I can’t do that if people can’t call 911.”     

A radio frequency engineer estimated that the fire station location of the tower would bring service to roughly 1,400 locals.

Balzarini suggested that the cell tower should be built in New Seabury, a more central location for the gap in coverage.

“From industrial park to where it’s going to go at the fire station you are going to get double coverage there,” said Balzarini.

“But from where we really need it down to New Seabury, we’re not going to get coverage, we may get spotty coverage. But in the summer time when everybody is using their cellphones and computers the transmission goes down, so you’re going to get even less coverage in the summertime when all the people come here.” 

Many opposed to the tower have shared the same opinion on Balzarini, questioning why it cannot be built in New Seabury.

Elizabeth Thompson, a lawyer representing the developers of the tower, said that no one singular tower could meet all of the coverage needs of south Mashpee and that no other location is feasible.

She also said the land on Rock Landing Road in New Seabury is under recreation restrictions and the land owner has not given the permission for the tower to be built there.

In response to the idea that the tower would hurt property values, Phelan responsed by saying that a certified appraiser from Fair Market Advisors presented an analysis to the board in September and found that there would be no major effect to property values in the area.

“I’m disappointed that you’re talking about aesthetics when I’m talking about public safety here, and you’re going to let aesthetics overrule public safety on both counts,” Phelan stated to planning board chair Waygan.         

Waygan’s rebuttal cited the fact that Mashpee’s zoning districts do not allow for construction of a cell tower at the Red Brook Road location because it falls outside of the town’s wireless overlay district.

In 2018, Town Meeting voted against extending the wireless overlay district to include the fire station on Red Brook Road, with Waygan saying that they cannot ignore the decision that was made.

Phelan argued that the town meeting vote was meaningless and that selectmen attempted to postpone a vote on the article in 2018 saying that it was indeed a meaningless article, but town meeting overrode their motion to postpone.

Waygan asked if Blue Sky Towers would allow for a continuance of the public hearing until the court reached a decision on the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Thompson said the developers would not agree to this request.

The cell tower project did receive the green light previously from the Cape Cod Commission.

About Luke Leitner

Luke Leitner grew up in Watertown Massachusetts and now lives in West Yarmouth on the Cape. He has been a part of the news team in the News Center since the spring of 2019. He studied business communications at Western New England University.
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