What are we doing to try to stop the tower?

We have hired Lynch Scrimo Attorneys to represent us.  We continue to collect funds for the legal proceedings and signatures for the Stop the Tower petition. A GoFund Me webpage called Stop the Tower at https://gf.me/u/xtpfin and a change.org web petition at http://chng.it/hvtpPGccvQ have been started. We have started a Facebook page and are working to educate the community about the issues surrounding the tower. Please contribute to the GoFundMe page and add you name to the petition to help us stop the tower.

Where can I go for more information about the tower?

This website www.stoptower.com will be regularly updated, and you can sign up to receive regular updates.  The Facebook page is also updated regularly.  Please reach out to us by email or call us at 413-418-6925 and we will do our best to answer your questions. We also welcome thoughts on how best to notify abutters and the community about cell tower projects.  

What are the issues around the tower?

300 abutters in our neighborhood did not receive a letter from the City of Pittsfield about the cell tower or the public hearing, nor did they get a second letter telling them about the cell towers approval and their right to appeal and stop the process.  Because these abutters were not notified, they had no ability to voice their concern, no ability to attend a meeting, no ability to ask questions, and provide push back to have it stopped. As abutters did not receive letters, they had no ability to share their concern within the neighborhood. 

If the tower is built on private land, was the city of Pittsfield required to send abutter notifications?

Yes. Abutter notification is a legal requirement of the permitting process, even on private land. 

How will the cell tower impact land values?

A 2005 study done by Sandy Bond, PhD. In the Appraisal Journal state that “cell phone base stations have a negative impact on the houses in the area.”  People are less likely to want to live and to buy near a cell tower, and it can impact home and land values by decreasing them between 20-30%. According to the National Institute for Science, Law and Public Policy, 79% of people said under no circumstance would they ever purchase or rent a property within a few blocks of a cell tower or antenna. 94% said a nearby cell tower would negatively impact interest in a property or the price they would be willing to pay for it. Visit our Research page for more information.

Who didn’t know about the tower?

Christopher Connell, the ward 4 Councilor, the ward councilors and councilors at large, the head of the Department of Public Works, the Building Commissioner, the Mayor, the majority of the 300 foot abutters, and the community were not aware of the cell tower. 

Was that why there was no publicity at all about this tower?

If no one knows about it, no one can write about it.  There were no articles printed and no mentions of this tower to alert anyone about it.

When was the tower permitted?

The tower was permitted over 2 ½ years ago in 2017. Given the significant passage of time, turnover in new city staff, new neighbors as well as new cellular ordinances, letters should have been sent out to abutters in 2019, however this never happened. We believe the time lapse should have required a re-permitting of the tower.

What is the environmental impact of the tower?

Towers this size have a substantial environmental impact, including the diesel generator used to power it when the electricity goes out and once a week when it runs for maintenance. Towers kill birds, takes away habitats for wildlife and puts diesel exhaust into the air. We don’t want this in our neighborhood.

What are we doing to prevent this from happening to other neighbors in Pittsfield?

We are working with our community to propose better zoning requirements and community transparency over projects of this magnitude. Some suggestions are extending abutter notification from 300 to 1500 feet, requiring a larger set back from homes, letters sent registered mail, ward notification by email and community ring around.  We are working together to create viable solutions that would be cost effective, equitable and fair to most people.

But I don’t read the Berkshire Eagle or the notifications section, how would I learn about the tower?

 Unless you walked into Pittsfield City Hall, read through the posted notices, you would not have learned about the tower. For abutters who live in other states yet own land here, this would not even be an option. For the majority of us who both work and are raising children, visiting city hall weekly to review notices would not be an effective form of notification. It would require us to know all the abutting properties, lot sizes and streets.

We rely on neighbors telling neighbors and the news spreading by word of mouth. When abutters were not notified, they had no ability to communicate this with other neighbors and spread the word organically or over the many mediums we use to communicate such as email, text messages, phone calls, Facebook, etc.

What is the recommended setback from homes?

The recommended setback for cell towers and antennas is at least 500 meters, or 1,600 feet from homes.  

What is deceptive about the tower?

Besides the lack of abutter and community notification, the address for the permit is listed as 877 South Street, which implies behind the office building located at that address–not within 300 feet of houses on residentially zoned land, adjacent to a residential neighborhood. The permit was issued without a special permit meeting, which would have alerted our city councilors.  The permit was also issued in 2017, and after two years with no construction, the permit lapsed and should have been re-permitted.  Instead, it wasn’t.  Construction happened to coincide with the Covid-19 quarantine when government offices, courts and organizations that could offer help were shuttered and overwhelmed with the pandemic. 

Did the construction company build an illegal road to access the work site?

Yes. It was not in their permit to access the work site through Plumb and Alma Streets.  They construction company created an access point by cutting down trees, leveling the land and covering a new road in woodchips to make it useable by work trucks and construction vehicles.  Even after the head of the Pittsfield DPW notified the construction company that it could not access the site this way, vehicles continued to use it, remarking to residents that it was easier, faster and less congested than getting their trucks up the unfinished South Street road. 

What are the height restrictions on the land the tower is building on?

The section of land Verizon is building the tower on is zoned residential and has a height restriction of 35 feet. Verizon, in their permit application states that: “the height of the tower will not be substantially detrimental and there will be minimum visual impacts to the surrounding community.” As none of us knew about the tower, none of us could argue that at a height of 115 feet, with capacity to extend to 150 feet, the tower will be visible from south Pittsfield, be extremely detrimental and create significant visual impacts to both the abutting properties and the neighborhood. 

How will the cell tower impact the neighborhood?

The cell tower is a metal industrial structure, with electrical panels, a diesel generator, an enclosed chain link fence compound with barbed wire that will house the 115 foot monopole and the potential 48 cellular antennas that it is equipped to hold. This will blight the landscape, be out of keeping with the neighborhoods residential characteristics and be an eyesore.  Towers can and do collapse and catch fire. Right now these neighborhoods are known for their rural, untouched beauty, natural environment, sweeping views of the mountains and abundant wildlife, flora and fauna surrounding them.   We want to keep it that way.

Why is it important to care about this?

Few towers are located close to residential neighborhoods, nonetheless, deep inside on, within 300 feet of families with children, elderly, retirees and homemakers.  If this tower goes through, it sets a precedent that towers of this magnitude can be built anywhere, without all abutters being notified, without community awareness or transparency.  

How and when was the tower discovered?

Neighbors discovered the cell tower project because construction vehicles were illegally accessing Plumb and Alma Streets to begin land clearing during the Covid-19 shut in March, 2020. After contacting councilor Christopher Connell, who contacted people in city hall who were unaware of the construction, a resident called the construction company to ask what was being built and discovered it was a cell tower.

Is there a gap in coverage?

No. Verizon’s coverage page on their website clearly indicates no gap or lack of coverage in the area the tower will serve.  Towers are denied when they cannot prove that they meet a need, and in this case, there is no demonstrated or clear need.

See Map of Coverage Area for Pittsfield, MA

If this is in court, why is this a community issue?

If the judge grants the injunction to stop work until there can be proper abutter notification, it goes back to a zoning meeting to allow the neighbors and the community a chance for their voices to be heard. 

In that case we need the community to voice their disapproval of allowing a cell tower permit on land zoned residential with a 35 foot height restriction at the top of a neighborhood with so many children, families and homes within an unsafe radius.

What are the legal requirements now to notify abutters and the community?

Presently, the legal requirement is to notify all 300 foot abutters by mail AND print a legal notification prior to the zoning board meeting.

In that case we need the community to voice their disapproval of allowing a cell tower permit on land zoned residential with a 35 foot height restriction at the top of a neighborhood with so many children, families and homes within an unsafe radius.

Can the tower get taller?

Yes, it can go up at least 150 feet. With new 2020 Pittsfield cell tower ordinances, instead of building new infrastructure, the preference will be to continue to add onto old ones. This is frightening for our neighborhood. The greater number of antennas, the greater the EMF's which increases the documented risk for cancer and illnesses caused by EMF exposure. 

What has the city of Pittsfield done to help?

Jeff Clemons, Building inspector, was the first to come out to the site and offer support.  He pointed us in the direction of zoning ordinances and provided much needed reassurance and solidarity to our neighborhood.  Ricardo Morales, head of the Department of Public Works, came out to the site and notified the construction workers they could not access Plumb and Alma to reach the South St site.  When verbal and written notification failed, Ricardo put up police tape, signs and ultimately a concrete block to physically stop access.  When smaller trucks came up, he sent his DPW work trucks up to help keep an eye on the area so that it would not be family’s job to police the area.  Our neighborhood is very grateful for both Jeff and Ricardo. CJ Hass and Nate Joyner provided permit details and Deanna Ruffer provided us with information about the requirement to send multiple letters to abutters.  At a time when offices were closed, we are grateful for the permitting department to getting back to us so quickly and providing us with information and education on the permitting process. 

Who in Pittsfield is supporting efforts to revisit the permitting of the tower and creating better permitting practices?

State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Councilor Christopher Connell, Councilor at Large Peter White, Councilor at Large Yuki Cohen, Councilor Patrick Kavey, Councilor Dina Guiel Lampiasi and Councilor Kevin Morandi all support revisiting the 877 South Street Permit and create better permitting and notification practices. Councilor at Large Earl Persip, III, Councilor Nicholas Caccamo, and Councilor Anthony Maffucio support looking at the permitting practices, extending abutter notification and coming up with viable solutions to improve notification. We are waiting on the rest to respond to our May 22 letter for support and will update this list as answers are returned to us. We wish to extend our gratitude to these elected officials for their responsiveness, support and solidarity at this time. It means the world to our neighborhood to have their support.