After nearly three hours of discussion on Wednesday night, the planning board voted to continue a hearing on a controversial cell tower proposed for construction on Red Brook Road.
Deliberations will reconvene on October 2.
At least 50 people gathered in the Waquoit Meeting Room for the hearing, which included input from two radio frequency engineers, a property appraiser, and a lawyer representing the developer, Blue Sky Towers II, LLC.
The town granted the project to Blue Sky after putting out a request for proposals soliciting applications from developers to build a cell tower on the same parcel as Mashpee Fire Station 2 more than two years ago.
Elizabeth Thompson, the lawyer representing Blue Sky Towers, stated that the proposed location of the tower is the only feasible location for the tower.
Numerous residents spoke during the public comment section of the hearing, with nine presenting arguments in favor of the project and seven opposing the project at the proposed site.
Residents who spoke in favor of the project argued that building the proposed 150-foot-tall cell tower—which would bring increased cell coverage to southern Mashpee, where service can be scant or nonexistent—is a matter of public safety.
Those who spoke against the project objected to the location of the proposed tower, saying the tower could lower property values in the surrounding area and questioning why a location so far north was chosen when it wouldn’t address all the coverage needs in the area.
Mashpee Police Captain Thomas Rose and several residents of New Seabury and Popponesset—where nearly 2,000 homes lost power when a microburst struck the area in July—were among those who advocated for the construction of the tower.
“South Mashpee is notoriously awful for not only cell service but radio communications as well,” Capt. Rose said.
He said he was working the day of the microburst and had no cell service while trying to coordinate rescue efforts in the area where the wind event hit.
“From a public safety standpoint, I can tell you it is imperative we get some kind of cell tower in that area,” the captain said.
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Most opponents of the tower stated that they agreed that the lack of cell coverage in the area was a concern for public safety, but said different technology could be used or a different location could be found.
Dana Robert, a resident of Degrass Road, which is near where the tower is proposed, called on the planning board to hire an independent radio frequency engineer and suggested that the town could use 111 Rock Landing Road—where a water tower is located—instead of the proposed site.
Mr. Robert questioned the accuracy of the maps shown by two radio engineers representing Verizon and Team Mobile.
The planning board chose not to hire an independent radio frequency engineer.
“He’s not going to tell us anything different,” board member Dennis H. Balzarini said.
Maps shown by both service companies showed the increase in coverage which would result if the tower were to be constructed at the proposed location. Both maps showed a significant increase in coverage but both radio frequency engineers noted that the tower could not provide coverage to the entirety of the area currently lacking coverage.
“There is not going to be one tower that is going to get every pocket of desired coverage,” Ms. Thompson said.
The radio frequency engineer from Verizon estimated that the tower would provide cell coverage for some 1,400 residents.
Teresa Ronhock, a resident of Sunset Circle and an owner of property on Degrass Road, suggested using an alternative technology known as an Outdoor Distributed Antenna System and noted that the tower would provide large swaths of wooded land with coverage while not reaching all residential areas.
Ms. Thompson disagreed that the Outdoor Distributed Antenna System—or any of the alternative suggestions raised by opponents of the tower—would work. She stated that she would submit a written response to the proposals raised at Wednesday’s meeting in time for the October 2 meeting.
Mark Correnti, a certified appraiser from Fair Market Advisors, presented an analysis of properties sold in Mashpee which compared the value of properties in Mashpee with clear views of already existing cell towers to properties of similar age, style, and size without a view of a cell tower.
“Based on the data that I am seeing in Mashpee of neighborhoods that have cell towers in them, there is no maleffect,” he stated.
An analysis of where the proposed tower could be seen from was also presented to the planning board by Ms. Thompson.
The analysis floated a red balloon at 150 feet at the proposed Red Brook Road location and shot images from surrounding areas to assess where the tower could be seen from. A rendering of what the tower could look might look like was then applied to the images.
As proposed, Verizon and Team Mobile would be the two carriers to initially use the monopole. A receiver for emergency services would also be included on the pole as well as enough room for two more service providers to be added in the future.
The cell tower project has previously received a green light from the Cape Cod Commission, passed the Mashpee Zoning Board of Appeals only to be appealed in Barnstable Superior Court, and seen the town reject an article at Town Meeting which would have helped the project along.