Cell Tower Site Lease Terminated

In January, when I heard about the proposed cell tower at Exit 59, I began an investigation of the process through which the state approved the lease of the highway property. My review of relevant documents showed that there had never been any direct notice to abutters. Both the Arlington and the Belmont Boards of Selectmen expressed their view that the cell tower site was inappropriate. Working with Senators Tolman and Donnelly and Rep. Garballey, I drafted a letter to the relevant authorities asking that the lease be terminated. Upon review of that letter, Governor Patrick’s administration did terminate the lease. All of the staff involved from the Department of Transportation and the Division of Capital Asset Management handled this matter expeditiously, candidly and professionally.

It seems unlikely that this site will be used for a cell tower in the near future and if there is any move to do so, we will all certainly be better informed in advance.

For the record, there are nine cell towers in Belmont carrying private signal. Click here for a list.

Click here to review the letter that was sent to the Governor and others and here to review the formal response.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

12 replies on “Cell Tower Site Lease Terminated”

  1. Will: Thanks to you and your legislative colleagues for your follow through on the cell tower, particularly your join letter to the Governor regarding the failed process for review of this lease that lacked proper community notification and input.

  2. I agree with Jeanne. Thank you for handling this problem so efficiently and effectively.

  3. Great. Not. So how many more years do I have to go with crappy cell phone reception ? Did you know there is a hole in Belmont center where you cant even get a call ? When my phone connects it connects to the mega-tower on rt. 2. Unfortunately for me it is behind Wellington hill. Cell phones work on line of sight. Im sure all your big donors on the hill get their calls just fine. BAD CALL (no pun intended). I WANT BETTER CELL PHONE RECEPTION !!!. Im sure everyone else in the area shaded (i.e. winbrook) by Wellington hill would too. If you put a tower on top of the hill the problem would be solved.

    I am a radio engineer by profession and would be happy to clarify any aspect of how a cell phone works and where the towers need to be to anyone who is interested.

    1. Thanks for speaking out, Reed.

      I know that there were two sides to this issue, which is why I checked in with the Board of Selectmen before moving on it. Both the Arlington and Belmont Board of Selectmen all felt it was the wrong site. Opposition came from many people on both sides of Route 60, not just people “on the hill”.

      I use ATT and have never experienced problems anywhere from our old home on Route 60 or around the center or at the high School. And some people weighing in on the cell tower said that even on Verizon (“Can you hear me now?”) they didn’t have problems. I can recall other constituents expressing concerns about coverage in the center, but the volume of that has been low. Verizon’s explanation of the tower was not so much need to fill in spotty coverage but need to increase bandwidth for internet and video. Also, by the way, the reason the lease could be cancelled was that they were so slow in moving forward to seek a permit. If they perceived a real problem, they could have moved a lot faster. This site was originally approved for leasing almost four years ago.

      Verizon has a lot of resources and alternatives to this tower. I think that this tower was just a good single step solution for them, but I expect that they will find other approaches. I don’t think I can undertake to solve that problem for them, but I’ll certainly approach the issue as fairly I can if I have a role with respect to any future site that they propose.

  4. Thank you Will, for the quick and effective action. I, like many, believe that abutters must be asked for input into any plan starting from the beginning and that Verizon should be examining alternatives to their plan for a 100 foot tower. However, it sounds like you’re minimizing the problem of bad cellphone reception.

    I want to assure you that there are definitely cellphone reception problems in and around Belmont Center. I have Verizon, which I chose because it offers applications which other companies don’t offer, and calls at my house are unreliable. I can’t call at all from Belmont Center. Maybe people didn’t complain so loudly about “spotty coverage” in deference to their fellow townspeople who would have ended up living next to a 100 foot tower. Let’s look for alternatives, but please don’t say the problem doesn’t exist.

  5. I too was not pleased to hear that this new tower was scrapped (without getting into a debate about location since it does seem like there were some clear missteps on the part of the State and delays on the part of Verizon). Verizon’s service in Belmont Center and at the High School in my experience with four different phones is terrible. With teen/tween kids that I’d like to be able to get a hold of or business calls I would prefer not to miss if I’m having a coffee at Brueggers or Starbucks – it is actually a major inconvenience and can be a safety issue. I have spoken to Verizon bunch of times about this and as Reed says, Belmont Center is in a valley that the current towers on the hill shoot right over. They have said they were working on it………

    Is this an opportunity for the Town? Here the State was going to get Verizon’s lease money. Maybe there are locations owned by the Town/Schools that might be less objectionable and could improve the cell service and result in some additional revenue for Belmont?

    1. Could be an opportunity. I do know that the town went after this opportunity some years ago, seeking sites that it could potentially lease to cell companies on town property. Some sites went through (the police station and McLean, possibly others); others were opposed and canned (the town yard). This was about 10 years ago. So, it is probably time to review the issue again and see there are any new options. I will draw this issue to the attention of the Selectmen and discuss it with them when we meet on April 12.

  6. Agreed – we need more cell towers! Put one up in my back yard! Then maybe I’ll get some decent recpetion. Right now, I can only get reception from one corer of my desk – if I move the phone durring a conversation, I lose the connection. I’ve called both ATT and Verizon to complain only to be told that “Belmont does not want cell towers in the town”. Seems we’d rather glom off the poor reception in the surroundign towns than bite the bullet, join the 21st century and get reasonable reception for our phones, smartphones, internet connected PDA’s, laptops and other devices.

    In a town where public services have generally been sub-par, the last thing we need is inferior wireless!

  7. There are quite a number of different types of towers. Some, like one on the Police Station in Belmont I believe are primarily for public safety or paging networks. You then have the issue of not every carrier having space on every tower. There is a very comprehensive site that actually maps all of the towers and antennas from a given address called Antenna Search: http://www.antennasearch.com

    Here’s a link to a search on Leonard St. in Belmont – http://bit.ly/cBRiD4 this link may or may not work. Maybe Reed can help us to understand what’s what.

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