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Planning Board approves cell tower upgrade on Old Shirley Road

The Planning Board has unanimously approved the special permit for AT&T to upgrade the equipment on the cell tower at 60 Old Shirley Road. Real estate specialist Kristina Cottone concluded the negotiations with the Planning Board at the board’s March 15 meeting.

In addition to requiring that AT&T comply with the conditions of all previous special permits for the site, the board placed three new conditions on this approval. The Old Shirley Road tower is camouflaged as a tree, so the Planning Board required that AT&T replace any of the camouflaging that it removes to perform the upgrade. AT&T will be able to operate its on-site generator for no more than 30 minutes a week, and only between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. AT&T will also not be allowed to install any new lighting at the facility. Cottone accepted all of these conditions.

Cottone also presented the results of the electromagnetic radiation report that the board requested during the Feb. 22 meeting. A person standing at the base of the tower would be exposed to less than 1% of the radio waves allowed by federal standards. A person in the air directly in front of the radio dish would receive more than the general public limit, but the height of the tower and its distance from houses makes it unlikely that anyone would be affected. The area around the base of the tower is also fenced to prevent trespassers from coming into contact with the tower’s equipment.

The electromagnetic radiation report that Cottone presented described only the emissions of AT&T’s equipment, not the equipment of other providers on the same tower. Cottone said that similar reports on the other providers’ equipment would show the same pattern of results as AT&T’s equipment: negligible emissions at ground level and a small area of high emissions directly in front of their radio dishes.

Cottone also clarified the exact scope of the project, explaining that AT&T currently has nine panels and radio units on the tower, and the project would replace six existing units with six new ones, leaving the total number of units unchanged at nine.

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