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A computer-generated simulation of how a proposed cell tower would look in the landscape in South Williamstown, one of the images included in a 166-page application from Evolution Site Services to the town.

Williamstown ZBA Hearing Another Application to Build Cell Tower

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday opened a hearing on an application to erect a cell phone tower in South Williamstown.
Pittsfield's Evolution Site Services is seeking a special permit to erect a 165-foot tall, self-supported lattice tower on a parcel owned by the Phelps family neighboring the campus of the Mount Greylock Regional School.
The proposal drew objections from several residents of Oblong Road who were concerned about the impact on the view shed in the neighborhood and from the director of recreational enterprises for Field Farm, a 316-acre Trustees of Reservations property that abuts the Phelps property.
The ZBA continued Thursday's hearing to a site visit on March 24 (rain date March 31) at 9 a.m., when Evolution will conduct the balloon test called for in the town's bylaw so board members can assess the visual impact of the proposed tower. No decision on the application is expected until at least the board's April 15 meeting.
Evolution is seeking relief from a local regulation that requires cell towers to be set back from property lines by a distance equivalent to the height of the tower plus 50 feet.
The proposal before the ZBA sites the 165-foot tower 192 feet from the eastern boundary of the Phelps property -- 23 feet fewer than required under the bylaw.
"Even if there was a catastrophic failure, it would still fall on the Phelps property," Evolution principal Christopher Ciolfi told the ZBA on Thursday evening.
The board inquired about why Evolution did not avoid the need for a variance by either locating the tower 23 feet to the west or building a 23-foot shorter tower.
The first alternative would have meant the tower's base area -- which is surrounded by a 75-by-75-foot fence would have encroached into a nearby stand of Hitchcock's sedge, which is designated a Species of Special Concern by the commonwealth's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.
"We've been working with Fish and Wildlife in Boston," Ciolfi said. "We had a botanist out here five times this year and back in 2014 when we started this project. There are a few plants of this Hitchcock's sedge. … We shifted the compound, and, by doing that, we're not in the habitat area.
"We will not be harming or disturbing any of the Species of Special Concern."
Ciolfi said he had an email from the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to that effect and was awaiting a letter from Boston to present to the town.
The latter alternative, a shorter tower, would have meant building a less functional tower. 
Evolution has AT&T signed on as the primary user of the planned tower, but it is designed for up to four more "co-locations." Each potential user would require 8 feet of space and, preferably, 4 feet of separation between arrays. Dropping the tower by 23 feet would, essentially, eliminate two spots for co-locators.
"You potentially reduce two users and hurt AT&T's signal … that opens the possibility for a second tower [in the area] in the near future," Ciolfi said. "I did a project in Schodack, N.Y., and the town asked me to build it 10 feet taller, which doesn't usually happen, because they said, 'We don't want you coming back in a few years for a second tower.' If you start cutting the height down, especially by 23 feet, that's the risk."
Thursday's hearing brought to mind two previous cell tower proposals to come before the ZBA in the last decade -- neither of which came to fruition.
In 2011, a 190-foot cell tower was proposed on the Phelps property (also, in a separate application, for the Mount Greylock campus). The plan at the time the Phelps parcel would have sited a taller tower on a higher section of the land, a difference of about 230 feet when both terrain and tower height are factored together, ZBA Chair Andrew Hoar said.
Nearly three years ago, the board approved a cell tower proposal at the junction of Routes 2 and 7, on the property of the former Taconic Restaurant. The special permit the board issued was never used by the applicant because of issues obtaining a lease from the landowner, and the permit has expired, meaning any new plan would need to go through the permitting process again.
In both the 2011 and 2018 applications, residents raised concerns about the aesthetic impact of new cell towers. The same arguments are being raised with the current proposal.
"[T]he proposed location is situated within a landscape classified as distinctive, which is the highest classification in the 1982 Massachusetts Landscape Inventory published by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation," wrote Matthew Krumme of the Trustees of Reservations. "Field Farm is an abutter immediately to the west which has served as public open space since 1985. As COVID has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt these last 12 months, people are clamoring for safe, accessible outdoor spaces and the number of people who hike our trails at Field Farm to find comfort in nature has risen dramatically.
"But we currently have no idea of the visual impact this tower will have on the scenic vistas from the main house and trails at Field Farm, mainly because no one from AT&T or its consultants have contacted us to discuss what impacts a 165-foot tower will have on one of the most cherished views in Williamstown."
On the other hand, Hancock Road residents Patrick and Dawn Schoorlemmer wrote the board in support of Evolution's application.
"As South Williamstown residents for over 10 years, we feel that the time is long past due to address the cellular dead zones in this part of town," the Schoorlemmers wrote. "Wireless coverage is no longer a frivolous luxury; it is an indispensable tool for residents, visitors and first responders."
While the Zoning Board has the authority to enforce the local bylaw and can negotiate modifications to proposals to address visual impacts, as it did with the 2018 application, federal law favors the ability of wireless providers to site towers to provide adequate coverage.
"Here you have the intersection of federal law and the local bylaw," Community Development Director Andrew Groff told the ZBA on Thursday. "The federal law is telling you one thing, and the local bylaw is telling you another. You kind of have to look at both and weigh them against each other. The federal law preempts your state and local regulations.
"The state is telling you what criteria you have to meet for granting a variance. But at the same time, the federal Telecommunications Act is telling you that you cannot unreasonably impede a carrier's right to establish service in an underserved area."

Tags: ZBA,   cell tower,   

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Barry Leads Pittsfield Americans to 12-Year-Old Sectional Title

By Stephen Sports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Everyone contributed Saturday as the Pittsfield Little League American Division All-Stars secured a Section 1 Championship. 

But the game began and ended with Christian Barry. 
On the mound, Barry struck out the first three batters he faced and the last two batters to come to the plate for visiting Longmeadow. 
At the plate, Barry led off the bottom of the first with an inside-the-park home run to right and ended it with a bomb to left that was good enough for a double but only needed to be good enough to drive home Jack Bellafontaine to give the Americans an 11-1, five-inning win and a trip to next week’s state tournament in Gloucester. 
“One of our umps that I coached asked me early in the year why I bat [Barry] first,” Pittsfield manager Ty Perrault said. “Without even hesitating, I said, ‘To get him up as many times as we possibly can.’ He thought about it and said, ‘That makes sense.’ 
“When the bottom of the order does the job like they did today, he comes up with guys in scoring position, and it works out really well.”
After leading off the first with his 29th home run of the year — house league and all-stars — Barry had runners on base every time he came up, and he cashed in every time, going 4-for-4 with a homer, a double and five RBIs. 
On the hill, he struck out 10 and only allowed three hits — all in the top of the fifth, when Longmeadow scored its only run to make it 10-1 and force a fifth inning.
“My first inning, i pitched really well, and then I started to lose it a little where I just had to stay calm and work through it,” Barry said. 
He struck out the first four Longmeadow batters and had eight Ks through three innings. 
In the fourth, Longmeadow’s Alejandro Santiago hit a leadoff double and came home on a Chase Wagner single. But Barry was able to stop the bleeding. 
Longmeadow worked a one-out walk to start the top of the fifth. That batter stole second and moved up on a sac bunt to bring up the top of the order. But Barry picked up his fifth and sixth strikeouts against Longmeadow’s Nos. 1 and 2 hitters to get his team back on offense. 
Pittsfield’s offense produced three in the first, three in the second and four in the third to put Little League’s “mercy rule” in play. 
Cam Blake went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. Kevin Konefal was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI. 
Bellafontaine walked and scored in the second from the nine hole. He led off the fifth with a double to left ahead of Barry’s game-ending RBI. 
Perrault will take Pittsfield back to the state tourney, where it was victorious in 2018 to earn a trip to Bristol and the New England Regional, coming within one win of a trip to Williamsport, Pa., and the Little League World Series. 
The manager said he knew this year’s edition of the Americans had the talent to get back to the state’s “final four,” but it had to also have the drive. 
“I think they always have the potential,” Perrault said. “It’s just whether they want to do it. Their attitudes in practice, showing up to hit at eight and nine in the morning and then coming back at night, with me, for defense, their attitudes have been great — every one of them. 
“When that’s the case, the sky’s the limit.”
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