RICHMOND — A proposed cell tower that has generated controversy among Richmond residents in recent months is one step closer to becoming reality.
After closing its Sept. 9 public hearing, the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment approved a special exception for the 175-foot-tall tower, which would provide cell service to more than seven miles on Routes 119 and 32 in Richmond that do not currently have coverage.
Alan Schmidt, the board’s acting chair, said Monday that members voted 3–1 in favor of granting the special exception after the hearing, its third for the project since July. Antoinette Cincotta, who voiced opposition to the proposal at previous hearings, voted against the special exception, he said.
The Sept. 9 hearing drew as many as 50 people to the pavilion behind the Richmond Fire Station, according to Schmidt.
He noted that while several attendees presented reasonable, safety-related arguments for and against the proposed tower, the zoning board’s duty was to determine whether the project satisfied the conditions for a special exception to the town’s land use regulations.
“When we finally closed the hearing and voted on the special exception, it was pretty straightforward,” Schmidt said.
He added that residents should share their concerns with the Planning Board, which will conduct a site analysis for the proposed tower at a public hearing. No date has been set for that hearing, according to town officials.
Many people expressed concerns at the zoning board’s Aug. 13 hearing that emissions from the cell tower would be dangerous to local residents when it transitions from 4G to 5G coverage. Others said the tower would provide needed coverage where it is currently difficult to contact emergency responders, if necessary.
In response to that hearing, which also drew about 50 people, grew hostile at times and caused confusion among some attendees, Schmidt asked the town’s attorney, Joseph Hoppock, to attend the Sept. 9 hearing.
“I requested that the lawyer be there because this was going to turn into something that if we made any mistakes, we could end up in some legal jeopardy,” Schmidt said.
The zoning board postponed its decision on Aug. 13 after more than three hours of testimony from representatives of the Massachusetts-based company that would own the cell tower as well as members of the public. A previous hearing, on July 15, was postponed because an abutter to the proposed development was informed of the hearing just five days prior. (The town is required to notify abutters of a public hearing at least two weeks before it will occur.)