Cell Tower Height, Setback Changes Before Town Meeting Could Help Improve Reception

Cell Phone TowerFor years, Hamilton residents have complained about poor cell phone coverage in town. Article 3-5 on the Annual Town Meeting warrant helps make it easier to build cell towers in Hamilton. The years of complaints about coverage has resulted in proposed changes to the zoning bylaw which Planning Director Patrick Reffett and Town Manager Michael Lombardo say address some of the things that have prevented cell phone companies from building cell towers in Hamilton.

Reffett and Lombardo worked with several firms that site cell phone towers to better understand why none have been built under the current zoning bylaw and all of those companies said that the setback and height requirements are “unworkable.”

The lack of adequate cell phone coverage in Hamilton is not just an inconvenience – it is a public safety issue – the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board determined.

Since many phone conversations now take place via cell phone, and many homes no longer have a landline, the current situation “poses a considerable safety risk to Hamilton
residents if they do not have a reliable cell phone connection,” the two boards determined.

The proposed bylaw changes are designed to provide an opportunity for new towers to be
located in Hamilton, but with the assurance that the Planning Board will be able to review the plans and weigh in on the proposal.

“Changing the cell tower regulations, as we’re proposing to do, is likely the single most important thing that Town Meeting voters can do to improve public safety,” Reffett said.

The changes reduce the setback for communications facilities from neighboring structures from 500 feet to 200 feet.

The maximum height for a communications tower would also be raised from 55 feet to 110 feet, with towers above 110 feet required to be monopole with associated paperwork showing the necessity that the tower be taller.

A complete copy of the proposed changes to the zoning ordinance can be found in the Town Meeting warrant in Appendix M. Both the Board of Selectmen and Finance and Advisory Committee support the changes.

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