To the editor:

Imagine that you have to drop everything, under the pressures of COVID-19, to hire attorneys, rally the neighborhood and fight Verizon and the city of Pittsfield. Imagine also, being on lockdown while you watch Verizon build a massive, possibly illegally permitted tower, right over your home.

I was given a tour of this cell tower site on a wooded mountaintop. Courtney Gilardi has spearheaded the neighborhood information campaign. Gilardi took on this job because she was shocked and horrified at the sudden start of the construction project. She realized that she and her neighbors had not been alerted by the Pittsfield planning department with the usual letters and meetings. Bureaucrats need to answer the question: “What changed?”

The group of nearby residents have been scrambling to stop work on the tower until they, at least, have a chance to voice their concerns. Neighbors say they saw flatbed trucks and concrete mixers going up and down their tiny road, and that was how they learned of the Verizon tower. It appears that this project was pushed through in the darkness of a quarantined night.

Local elected leaders were also blindsided by the project. Ward 4 City Councilor Chris Connell and Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier had not been informed about the construction project and were in disbelief when they received a call from Gilardi notifying them of the work. The representatives are pressing for a review of the permitting steps taken by Pittsfield planning agencies.

Banding together, residents quickly hired an attorney, had a hearing and are awaiting a decision regarding a stop work order and the time for the required community meeting and notifications. Yet, the work has continued throughout the legal proceedings.

While leaders are distracted with COVID-19 issues, the tower base appears to be finished and the tower is ready to be erected. Although the tower can be dismantled, we all need to know what went wrong in the approval process. This lapse must be explained and corrected.

Residents of Pittsfield: do we accept sky-high corporate projects even when it covertly tramples the wishes and health-concerns of impacted neighbors? And do we accept a planning department that does not fulfill its responsibility effectively?

Jocelyn Chapman


Published in Berkshire Eagle,605885?