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Residents on Alma Street are hoping a Superior Court judge will order an injunction against a cell tower in their neighborhood.

Pittsfield Residents Fight Cell Tower Construction

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Residents hope Berkshire Superior Court rules on an injunction forcing Verizon to halt the construction on 150-foot cell tower on South Street.
Residents of Alma Street will have their date in court on Tuesday, claiming Verizon did not properly notify abutters before constructing a cell tower.
"I pray that the honorable judge not only rules in favor of our neighborhood, but at the same time also grants the injunction to stop work, preventing further damage, stress, and concerns associated with the tower being up and active," resident Courtney Gilardi said. "I would hope she would stop this tower from being placed in our neighborhood."
Verizon received the permitting from the Zoning Board of Appeals in 2017 to erect the 115-foot cellular tower. Work began in this spring.
Neighbors claim that they were never properly notified and only became aware of the construction once construction vehicles started rolling through their neighborhood.
"I was shocked that this was happening just up the hill 1,000 feet from my house," abutter Ezra Small said. "I was disappointed in my elected city officials for allowing this to happen right under our noses during a time of a global health pandemic where we all are experiencing a heightened sense of stress and vulnerability."
The abutters' case is that they did not receive notification when the permit originally went to the ZBA for consideration. The notice was printed in the media and posted at City Hall but the neighbors felt this was not good enough.  
"They have put hundreds if not thousands of these towers up in communities all over the country," Small said. "They know exactly what the very minimum requirements are for getting these projects green-lighted and built with the least amount of risk and community dissent as possible."
Ryan Scago and Wendy Clothier added that they thought the project's address was purposefully misleading and it was not clear that the South Street property extended quite a ways into the neighborhood
"They listed as misleading an address as possible using 877 South St. in their public notice so that even people who read that section daily would not have associated the address with the actual location," Scago said. "On top of that, the residential abutters did not receive any of the three required notices. Whether this was intentional or by accident, it is rather relevant to the whole situation that the people affected most by the tower’s placement were the ones who did not receive the required notice."
The group created its own website outlining its vision and mission to stop the construction of the tower. It includes updates, donation opportunities to fund legal aid, and letters of support.
It also outlines some of their concerns. Chief among them the tower seems to be nearing completion.
"I am shocked and angered by Verizon's audacity in continuing this project, knowing that there is a court case in progress and that residents are furious," Clothier said. 
Residents fear the tower's effects on their property values as well as its impact on the natural beauty of the area. Clothier specifically pointed out the tower does not fit into the "pristine panoramas" seen from Arrowhead.
Also, there is a real concern among the neighborhood that the tower could be a danger to their health.
"Health is my biggest concern. Everything else commonly associated with these types of projects comes secondary," Scago said. "Good health should be everyone’s biggest concern and you would like to think that being in your home and living in your home would not put that at risk."
"Not only is it an eyesore to all the natural beauty we are surrounded by but devastating when it comes to your health. There are numerous health concerns including tumors, cancer, Alzheimer’s, headaches," abutter Jessica Scago said. "... My concern is for my four-year-old son. It is my job to protect and keep my son healthy and in a safe environment."
Gilardi said the city has been supportive and felt that it, too, was blindsided by the project. She said the public services commissioner put a stop to workers illegally accessing the building site through the neighborhood and that the building department provided "support, information, and reassurance."
She said the City Council has committed to improving community notification and transparency around cell tower projects.
"[Council President] Peter Marchetti has offered to help us draft changes to the zoning ordinances, which we can petition together," Gilardi said. "[Ward 3 Councilor] Nick Caccamo and [at-Large Councilor] Earl Persip have also offered help with revisiting the notification procedures. No one believes that a legal notification in the paper or a notice posted at City Hall, especially given the deceptive street address, is sufficient to constitute proper abutter and community notification."
Gilardi did add that they were disappointed that the administration did not step in to pause construction. 
Some residents hope the permit goes back to the Zoning Board of Appeals for reconsideration; others hope the tower comes down and stays down.
Others asked that the city makes some changes to their zoning requirements and notification procedures. Specifically, finding better ways to communicate these notices such as posting them on the city's website or providing email notifications.
Gilardi added that even though the whole situation is unfortunate, she is proud of her community — many came forward to sign affidavits even though they were not directly affected by the tower.
"I'm so proud of our community. They are why I love it here and don't want to have to leave," she said. "Despite our community feeling helpless and hopeless because they were told they couldn't possibly mobilize, raise money, or collect signatures in time, they rose to the occasion and they did."

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