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Shacktown Residents File Suit Against Pittsfield Over Cell Tower

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Residents of the Shacktown neighborhood have filed litigation against the city after its cease and desist order for the Verizon cell tower at 877 South St. was rescinded.

On Thursday, a civil action suit was filed in Berkshire Superior Court against Mayor Linda Tyer, City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta, Pittsfield Cellular Telephone Co. (Verizon Wireless) and the Board of Health.

It is an appeal of the board's June decision to rescind the order after the telecommunications company filed a case against the city of Pittsfield in federal court and is a request for declaratory relief.

The document alleges that the decision to rescind the order was in excess of, or in derogation of the Board's authority or jurisdiction; that it was tainted and rendered unlawful by the illicit actions of the mayor, city solicitor and/or others under the mayor’s influence and control; and is not supported by substantial evidence.

There are four counts: an appeal of the decision, the mayor’s refusal to enforce board order, and city solicitor conflicts of interest and improper coercion, and declaratory judgment.

Attorney Scott McCollough emphasized that the complainants had to name the Board of Health in the suit, but added that they are not really complaining about anything that the board but rather "legal complaints about what they were forced to do."

Courtney Gilardi, lead in the suit, said none of the the parties wanted it get to litigation but they want to find a solution for their neighborhood. The goal of the suit is to get back to where the board was urging Verizon to come to the table.

"This Board of Health has been phenomenal, and especially under [Chair Bobbie Orsi's] leadership," she explained.

"They have taken this seriously, they have treated us with dignity and respect, and they have done their due diligence with their investigation and their findings and their conclusions and the board really deserves to have all the practical resources and the legal support that they need to find meaningful solutions for Shacktown."

In early April, the board voted to act on the order nearly two months after first approving it. This vote was conditioned on the order being withdrawn without prejudice if the board was unable to retain legal counsel prior to an administrative or judicial proceeding.

The order stated that the cellular company had one week to respond or come to the table with a solution that pleased the panel, which would be to remove or turn off the tower. The board had planned on meeting on April 20 to follow up on the order but never met.

In May, Verizon, operating as Pittsfield Cellular Telephone, asked for a declaratory judgment from the U.S. District Court in Springfield against the city. The company claimed that the board violated Section 332 of the federal Telecommunications Act (TCA) of 1996 that prohibits state and local governments from regulating a personal wireless service facility because of perceived health effects from radiofrequency emissions that comply with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations.

The City Council was to take up a request from the board for $84,000 to hire legal counsel against the telecommunications company but this was sidelined when the council was informed of the lawsuit and put to rest in June.

Since the tower's erection in August 2020, Gilardi, of Alma Street, and her daughter have spoken during open microphone at City Council meetings about the negative health effects they say are from electromagnetic fields (EMF) generated by the antennae on the 115-foot pole. They have also reported residing in an alternate location because of the effects.

Five other shacktown residents joined Gilardi in the suit: Charlie and Judy Herzig, Mark and Angelika Markham, and Elaine Ireland.

The group rep

Citizens Civil Complaint Ag... by

orted symptoms such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, insomnia, palpitations, fatigue, rashes, tinnitus, memory loss, and concentration issues.


Tags: cell tower,   lawsuit,   

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