Verizon to fly balloon at proposed cell tower site

Photo simulation of cell tower at 855 Shaker Road. (Schatz, Schwartz and Fentin, P.C. photo)

WESTFIELD – Verizon Wireless has submitted an application into the Planning Board for a special permit to build a 120 foot telecommunications tower on the grounds of Shaker Farms Country Club at 866 Shaker Road. Verizon Wireless has negotiated a lease with Shaker Farms for a 100’ x 100’ lease area. The antennas will be mounted at the 115 foot level on the tower and will consist of six panels divided into three sectors with two antennas per sector.
From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24 (bad weather day Feb. 25) and Saturday, March 3 (bad weather day March 4), Verizon will fly a three-foot diameter red balloon at the height of 120 feet in the proposed location of the tower.
At the Planning Board meeting on Feb. 6, Attorney Ellen W. Freyman, authorized agent for Verizon Wireless, noted that the city ordinance required flying the balloon for three days.
“I’ve done this for 20 years, I’ve never done it for more than one day,” Freyman said at the meeting. The board then agreed to the two successive Saturdays.
“Flying the balloons gives people a chance to visualize the impact from their house or another spot,” said City Planner Jay Vinskey.
A public hearing for the special permit will be held at the Planning Board’s March 6 meeting. Verizon Wireless has to have a variance for the cell tower because it’s in a residential zone,” said Vinskey.
The first hearing for the variance from Article V § 5-50 II (A) of the ordinance, which prohibits wireless telecommunications towers in the Rural Residential zoning district will be on Feb. 28 at 7:15 p.m. before the Zoning Board of Appeals. Vinskey said the Planning Board can’t (or shouldn’t) approve it without approval of the variance from ZBA.
Another waiver being requested is from Article III Section 5-50 III (B) (2) requiring that the tower must be no less than 500 feet from each residential lot line. The proposed tower is within 226 feet of the closest residential lot line, according to the online application, which states: “the tower location is necessary to provide the required coverage, allow for appropriate visual screening and maintain the business needs of the property owner. This setback is almost more than twice the height of the tower.”
Vinskey said there is also a broader Federal Communications Commission (FCC) act that says if there’s no coverage, you really can’t deny it – as long as they can prove there’s a coverage gap.
According to the application (available online under the Planning Department’s pending applications), the integration of the tower into the existing network “is critical to the operation of this network,” and “inadequate service will be remedied by the installation of the tower on this site.” Specifically, the application states that the tower will deliver service along 2.2 miles of Shaker Road, .9 miles of Falley Road, and enhanced capacity for the southwestern portion of the Munger Hill neighborhood.
Existing transmitter locations are positioned to the east (591 Northwest Street, Agawam), to the southwest (686 College Highway, Southwick), to the northwest (115 West Silver Street) and to the north (14 Delmont Avenue). These sites currently provide 4G LTE service. The application states that “the proposed site, being centrally located to our existing cell sites in the area, is in the optimum location for 4G LTE service.”
Vinskey noted that this cell tower is the first to be proposed in the six years he has worked for the city.

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