Select Board Votes “No” on Cell Tower

Reading, MA — By a vote of 5-0, the Select Board decided to “indefinitely postpone” any proposal of a town-constructed, separate, free-standing cell tower to support telecom company equipment on the Auburn Street water tower site. The issue of a temporary tower on the site came to light as the town seeks to replace the Auburn Street water tower. Current plans are for the water tower replacement to begin this spring. Several cell phone companies and town emergency services use the current water tower to host antennas and other equipment. Questions remain about what will happen to the telecom equipment during a process that could take between one to two years to complete.

Neighbors to the water tower have been vocal in their opposition to a new cell tower of any type. During public comment, water tower abutters Mike Lacey and Jackie McCarthy urged the board to vote on the issue at the November 17 meeting.

Member Vanessa Alvarado, who proposed the motion, stated that the motion’s goal is “to demonstrate where we as a board stand” on the issue of a cell tower on the site, as well as to “provide guidance to the town manager and town engineer” as they seek solutions to the impending issue. Member Carlo Bacci agreed quipping, “We are not in the cell tower business, we are in the water tower replacement business.”

Initially, members Anne Landry and Mark Dockser expressed concern about taking a vote on the issue prematurely. “ [I am] concerned about potential implications of a vote,” Landry stated. Dockser followed with concerns regarding harming the town’s negotiating position or possible litigation from the telecom companies. Town Manager Robert LeLacheur promised a solution for the emergency services equipment by the time work on the new water tower begins.

If the telecom companies want to build their cell tower on this or any other site in town, the proposal would have to be reviewed through the regular site plan process with the Community Planning and Development Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Kerry Dunnell, representing the Board of Health, reported on plans for possible COVID-19 vaccine dispensing while imploring residents to continue to “be vigilant” in their mask-wearing, hand washing, and social distancing. Fire Chief Greg Burns also shared that the town is currently in the process of applying for two COVID-19 related grants totaling over $688,000.

The Select Board voted 5-0 to approve a Transfer of Liquor License to the new owner of Fuddruckers Restaurant. It also approved another owner to the existing liquor license paperwork for Baystate Liquors by a vote of 5-0. After discussion, the board voted 5-0 to approve a new Class II Motor Vehicle Application to allow the selling of used cars at JD Petroleum on North Main Street.

The board voted 5-0 to approve a conservation restriction for Camp Rice Moody. This is the next step in assuring that the eight-acre site would be set aside in perpetuity for the conservation of wetlands and for recreation purposes. The Conservation Commission had already unanimously approved the plan. The application will now need to be made to the state to affirm the restriction. Once the restrictions are completed, the camp will be turned over to the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts for oversight and management.

Reading Community Television (RCTV) Executive Director Philip Rushworth shared an annual meeting video with the board that highlighted the access corporation’s activities in the past year, demonstrating how RCTV has adapted to the COVID-19 situation. New RCTV board president Chris Cridler also spoke with the board regarding future community outreach as Rushworth commented on diversifying funding for RCTV as people continue to “cut the cord.” RCTV will be presenting its budget to the Select Board in December.

The Select Board adjourned at 11:35 pm.

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