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Pittsfield Cell Tower Opponents Turn to Supreme Judicial Court

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Shacktown residents want the Supreme Judicial Court to weigh in on the city's notification process for the cell tower at 877 South St., alleging that they found out about it when construction vehicles showed up on their narrow residential roads.

In April 2020, the abuttors filed a complaint in Berkshire Superior Court trying to annul the Zoning Board of Appeals' approval of the tower and seeking a new ZBA hearing. They claimed that notification was not received through the mail.

The defendants, Pittsfield Cellular Telephone Co., doing business as Verizon Wireless, and the ZBA, filed a joint motion for summary judgment. the judgment ruled against the abuttors saying that "the dispute over whether the city mailed notice to the Plaintiffs is not material." 

The defendants argued that the suit was not filed in a timely matter, as the tower's application was submitted in September 2017.

If the SJC takes on the case as substance, it will decide if their legal argument is correct, said attorney John Siskopoulos, who represents the abuttors.

"I believe we're definitely the correct argument because I believe the law was violated here with regards to what happened to the abuttors," he added.

Both the trial and Appellate Court determined that there was an issue of fact in whether the abuttors actually received mailed notice of the hearing. Siskopoulos believes that the ruling against them is a "stunning legal conclusion."

He said there was low attendance at the cell tower hearing held in November 2017 and believes that the notices were not properly mailed to give the area's residents the opportunity to attend. Siskopoulos is arguing that the permitting procedure must stick to the statute and have a post in a printed newspaper, on a community board, and mailed to abuttors within 300 feet of the proposed site.

The ZBA was found to have followed the first two but residents are arguing that the third — the mailings —- were not. 

Part of the issue is the location of the tower, which is set far back from the South Street address and into the Shacktown neighborhood. 

According to the meeting minutes from Nov. 15, 2017, Lori Court resident Lewis Schiller attended the hearing and posed questions about the tower. Lori Court is just east of the tower. Most of his concerns regarding visibility, electrical interference, and construction impacts were addressed.
At the hearing, he asked that a beacon is placed on the tower due to its proximity to the Pittsfield Municipal Airport and the amount of helicopter traffic that is seen in the area and that the access gate is constructed so that it cannot be bypassed by all-terrain vehicles.
After having his questions answered, Schiller was in support of the improved cell service from the infrastructure and said the neighborhood's concerns are not supported by bona fide research.

Last year, he told iBerkshires that Lori Court residents received an initial notice and a final approval notice for the tower.

Courtney Gilardi, a resident of Alma Street, just south of the tower, who has led the opposition to the cell tower, said the abuttors want to ensure that all three forms of communication are required before a ZBA hearing. She and her family have reported sickness from the tower and are living in alternative housing.

"We are so blessed to have found attorney John Siskopoulos, to have somebody who really cares about the neighborhood and the people here and the case," Gilardi said.

"He took the time to read the amicus brief that was signed by many of our city councilors and Tricia Farley-Bouvier, our state representative, where so many people tell their story."

Late last month, Shacktown residents filed litigation against the city after its cease-and-desist order for the cell tower was rescinded. 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.


Below: image of the abuttor notification that Lori Court resident Lewis Schiller says was sent to him, with his notes. 

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Purgatory Road Returns, Funds Bring Kevin Hines to Dalton

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

DALTON, Mass. — "Purgatory Road," a long-standing spooky event that raises money for suicide prevention, is back this year.

Attendees will be taken through a "cursed haunted mansion" themed trail in the woods behind the Dalton CRA. The event will run on Oct. 14, 15, and 21 from 7 to 10 p.m. and all proceeds support the Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention.

The fundraiser was started by Joann Farrell and Betsy Nichols 11 years ago and has raised about $200,000 since. It usually draws about 300 people per night.

This year, the effort has brought a globally known activist to Dalton.

"We did it for eight years and we were going to stop but with COVID, we decided that we needed to restart our efforts," Nichols explained.

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