Historic District Committee Approves Cell Tower

The flag will not fly, but the cellphone calls will connect.

That is the anticipated outcome of a 3-0 vote Wednesday, August 27, by the Historic District Committee to approve a proposed cellular phone tower with a shed to house associated ground equipment at Scenic Roots, a commercial garden center at 349 Route 6A.

On Wednesday evening, August 27, at the end of a process that spanned several hearings, committee members accepted the argument from AT&T attorney Edward D. Pare Jr. that no other location would be as effective or less obtrusive than the proposed spot toward the western end of the Scenic Roots parking lot between the business and Route 6A.

Jeffrey and Donna Kutil, the owners of Scenic Roots, said they hope the tower will be able to go into operation as early as March 2015.

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The tower, which will resemble a fat flagpole, will stand 75 feet high with a diameter of 31 inches.

The reason for its girth: the pole’s interior will include antennae and related equipment that otherwise would be seen on the pole’s exterior.

But unlike a prior plan, no flag will fly from the tower, per a condition laid down by alternate Lynda Haller, acting as a committee member on the proposal. Ms. Haller said a flag would draw more attention to the tower.

She also put forward a condition that the tower be painted a grayish-blue shade akin to that of a Great Dane.

The committee incorporated the conditions into its decision.          

Committee chairman William Collins said the tower as designed was inappropriate for its surroundings in the historic district, but the state statute governing the committee gives it the right to approve inappropriate proposals. So Mr. Collins stipulated that the decision approving the tower be recorded as a variance.

The fat flagpole flies in the face of the historical guidelines used by the committee to evaluate structural building changes in the district, which covers the town north of Mid-Cape Highway.

But the tower also has a legal friend in federal telecommunications law, which gives companies the right to trump local restrictions to put equipment in place as needed.

The law, however, does require applicants to work with local authorities to hew as closely as possible to their guidelines.

AT&T proposed the tower to close a gap in its cellular telephone coverage in East Sandwich.

Businesses inside the gap, including the Earl of Sandwich Motel at 378 Route 6A, went on record to support the tower proposal. Application advocates said cell calls are routinely dropped or cannot be completed in the gap.

The Sandwich Historical Commission opposed the application, citing the historic nature of that section of Route 6A.

Written and verbal support for the proposal outweighed the opposition.

Mr. Pare welcomed the committee’s decision. “We’re pleased that they listened to our evidence,” he said.

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