Although the cell tower in Martha’s Vineyard, MA, provides cell service to the island location, its visibility has become a bone of contention amongst the locals. If resident Dana Strayton prevails in court, the tower will disappear from the horizon entirely. Ongoing testimony will resume in Boston Superior Court this week, reports the MV Times.
Strayton launched a lawsuit and has told the court that the natural beauty of Chappaquiddick is marred by an “imposing” structure in the landscape. She noted her objection to the current tower, as well as previous structures occupying that site. She also cited potential health hazards from EMF radiation as reasons to remove the Samson Street tower.
Radio frequency engineer Dan Goulet testified that various sites had been considered prior to construction. The Samson Street location was deemed to be the best option. “That site substantially fills-in the coverage gap that was on Chappaquiddick,” he said. He added that his background included “designing, implementing and optimizing wireless networks” and said the cell tower was in compliance with FCC safety standards.
The plaintiff called on engineer and radio telecommunications expert, David Maxson. Maxson’s background includes drafting RF standards and safety material, as well as a prior assignment with the Town of Edgartown “to assist their Chappaquiddick cellular committee.” Maxson did not address the EMF claim, but said: “There is this general sensitivity [that the tower’s appearance is] incompatible with” a pretty view.
Maxson reported the danger he thinks could be a problem is that the drop zone of the tower is in an area where people could be present. However, he conceded that a well-built cell tower is unlikely to topple “as long as the tower base plates and the tower foundation don’t go.” Maxson also pointed to a tower in nearby Wellesley that caught fire and bent over near an occupied area. When questioned, he conceded he does not believe drop zones or fall zones are part of the local building code.
Robert Fynbo, a military trained microwave communications expert, presented information to the court about the origins of Chappy WISP [Chappaquiddick Wireless Internet Service Provider]. Fynbo said that as a long-time resident of the island, he had a strong interest in making wireless communications available for his children. When neighbors learned that he had his own wireless service, they requested their own connections. The resulting wireless service now occupies a place on the cell tower and provides coverage to many island residents.
Final testimony before the recess came from Martha’s Vineyard Commission senior planner, Bill Veno. The tower was reviewed under his jurisdiction since it was more than 50 feet tall.