In Pittsfield’s “Shack Town” neighborhood, residents continued to protest a Verizon Wireless tower during a virtual council meeting last Tuesday, calling for improvements to the permitting process. According to WAMC AM/FM, the tower has already sparked organized protests and lawsuits as residents believe they were “failed by the city of Pittsfield” regarding the project.
The 150-foot Verizon tower was granted a special use permit in 2017 by the city’s zoning board of appeals. According to residents, the city did not inform abutters of the tower project, and they also questioned why the tower was allowed to exceed the 35-foot height limit.
“I did not receive any notification about this tower, and if I had, I would have attended those meetings, and I would have pushed back against it in this location,” said Courtney Gilardi, who lives less than 400 feet away from the tower. “With cell tower exposure, it’s nonstop day and night, and there’s been no published scientific study about the cumulative biological effects of all of the radiofrequency radiation that’s now present in our environment.”
According to resident Dan Bouvier, all 300-foot abutters should have received at least three notifications of the project. He also noted that announcements should have been posted throughout the neighborhood before a balloon test was completed; those steps were not followed.
During the meeting, Bouvier said, “I’d like you all to entertain the possibility that there may have been several dropped balls in the process, and how that would impact the validity of the project itself. There are several ways that the city is currently supposed to inform residents about coming construction projects in their neighborhood.”
“The city and/or those involved in the construction are responsible for meeting not some but all of these requirements to inform neighbors. These are the times where our elected officials – you – must stand up on our behalf because we are those who were not given a voice in the process,” Bouvier added in addressing the city council.
Another resident, Gareth Coco, asked for improved community notification measures, including ease of finding information on the city’s website and the process surrounding lapsed permits. “I would like to see that lapsed permits are not allowed to just be rubber stamped…they should go through a full permitting process again,” he said.
WAMC reported the city council voted to refer a petition regarding the tower to the community development board. The petition asks for a 1,600-foot setback from residential structures for wireless communication facilities and requires notifications to all abutters via certified mail.
WAMC reported Verizon did not respond to a request for comment.