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Cell Tower Study Committee
Cell Tower Study Committee
Minutes of the June 19, 2012 meeting
The Meeting was called to order at 7 p.m. in the meeting room on the first floor of
the Town Hall. Present were Steve Wenczel, Nancy Grossman, Brian Emond,
Chuck Dauchy and Peter Reich. Peter volunteered to take minutes.
The minutes are not in the sequence in which the meeting transpired: various
discussions are clustered around the four points in the Committee's charge.
Nancy opened with a brief description of the planning board discussions associated
with the proposed by-law that was voted down at the April Town Meeting. She
outlined provisions of open meeting rules, pointing out that members could talk to
one another and exchange factual information but there should be no deliberation
outside of the designated meeting. She also noted that it is her understanding that
the matters we are discussing only apply if private companies own the towers; if
the Town owns them, we probably have more leeway to decide siting issues.
Item 1: Research what impact health issues may legally have on cell tower by-law
Chuck and Peter both questioned the authority of this committee or the zoning
board to consider health issues at all, citing one website which claimed:
"One thing that is sure is that the FCC and Congress have pre-empted local zoning
boards from evaluating health issues when reviewing applications for cell towers.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 creates a non-rebuttable presumption that
towers and antennas that operate within the prescribed limits of radiation are safe.
They did this because it was easy to foresee that local zoning boards would use
health as an reason for denying tower applications on the basis of uninformed
Chuck said he would look into this and examine precisely how much we may
legitimately address health issues. He said he will also look into the type of review
process we might add. Chuck also recommended that we should continue to try to
invite Planning Board representation in our meetings.
The discussion proceeded to a general discussion about health concerns versus
aesthetic issues on a town-wide basis, and there seemed to be a sense that if
aesthetic issues such as the visual impact of towers would make people
uncomfortable that this was a valid health concern. Peter noted that consideration
might be given to protecting the Peace Pagoda's aspect.
On the matter of reading various research studies, Peter reiterated the point of view
expressed in his email of June 10. He said that in his view there is a vast ocean of
information on the Web, and that society has established a mechanism to filter
dross from substance and to establish public policy, and that this mechanism is the
worldwide peer-review medical-scientific literature as indexed by the National
Library of Medicine, and, for citation analysis, Science Citation Index. He said
that from this perspective it seems clear to him there seems to be consensus in the
scientific community and the courts that at this point in time it is not possible to
attribute edical conditions directly to cell phone tower emissions
Others felt that strongly that the vast majority of studies of EMFs, particularly
European ones, "say there is a problem" with regard to cancer and well-being, and
that more studies are being published all the time. Brian and Nancy discussed a
way to allocate reading responsibilities in such a way as to spread the burden so
that more than one person would have the opportunity to review any article but no
one would necessarily read all. Brian said that between low power and siting
restrictions, we can find a way. Peter cautioned again that a filter or method
should guide the proposed reading, limited to peer-review literature. He added that
one study in the abstracts sent on June 11 had examined funding sources and
revealed that funding source can produce bias. Nancy will assign readings to allow
the committee to look for credible health concerns.
2. Separate the studies of health concerns for cell phones from cell towers
There was disagreement on whether there is enough information in hand about this
distinction: to be determined in subsequent readings.
3. Recommend what tower setbacks should be included in an amended draft bylaw
With regard to siting, Steve noted that in examining articles on the subject of cell
towers and human health, the guiding principle in the analysis should be a
"precautionary principle" and that aesthetic issues could be a health concern.
Nancy concurred, and said not enough is known and there are many conflicting
Brian proposed that we determine safe distances for cell tower location and make
recommendations. Chuck said it is important to establish a process for review, as
arbitrary setbacks can prove unwieldy when dealing with real potential sites. He
proposed a "special permit" process outlining specific considerations such as line
of sight and a site review process that allows neighbors to voice their views. He
noted that a map overlay might prove helpful in defining potential sites.
Steve stated that in addition to siting considerations, it might be possible to address
output levels of a given tower in such a way as to provide good coverage with less
power. Chuck added that a provision could specify recommended signal strength
and monitoring of output.
The proposed and defeated zoning by-law proposed the following:
J. The minimum distance from the base of the Tower, to be measured from the
vertical center line of the monopole, to any property line or road right-of-way shall
be at least 1.5 times the height of the Tower to ensure an adequate fall zone.
K. The Tower shall be located a minimum distance of 1,000 feet from school
buildings, playgrounds and athletic fields. Towers shall be located at least 600 feet
from any residential structure to minimize impact on residential uses.
There was a brief discussion about environmental issues such as the impact of
access roads, and Chuck stated that it is important not to encumber the site
selection process where adequate safeguards in the form of regulatory processes
are already in place. Nancy stated that wildlife habitats and endangered species
merit our consideration.
4. Review how to encourage public participation and support for the
process and the result
On the matter of encouraging public participation, the Committee will employ the
newsletter and town website to make known findings and recommendations...and
progress? Possibly the Montague Reporter could be contacted. Nancy brought up
again the possibility of town ownership of any future towers and there was interest
in looking into that.
In sum, although the discussion rambled from time to time, there was a sense that
the committee might propose a specific review process and specify greater
setbacks that would be more restrictive and observe the precautionary principle.
The next meeting was scheduled for Tuesday July 17th at 7 p.m. Nancy will meet
with others who weren't here tonight on Monday June 25th at 7 p.m.
Minutes of the June 25, 2012 Meeting
The Cell Tower Committee meeting came to order at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 25th in the
Leverett Town Hall. Present were Nancy Grossman, Sue Leschine, Bob Hallock, Ray
Bradley and Peter Reich. Gordon Fretwell sat in for much of the discussion. Again, the
topics are clustered, and not necessarily in the order in which they were discussed. Do
not hesitate to send corrections, clarifications, additions.
Nancy opened the meeting by reviewing the evolution of the Cell Tower issue in town,
her own discussions with the planning board, and the decision to look for more
information. She noted that Europe takes these issues of emissions much more seriously
than we do in the U.S. Bob agreed that the U.S. standards are very loose. He said that in
Salzburg the limit is 10,000 times lower than in the U.S. and in many countries it is 100
times lower and proposed that an offset of 1,500 feet or 500 meters could constitute a
reasonable level of safety. Bob also stated that the Federal limits are based on studies of
heating --like a microwave -- and not on studies or other effects. Nancy said she still had
concerns about risks to wildlife and habitats and wished to explore the possibility of the
town owning cell tower sites. In the discussion that followed there was a sense that these
topics were not within the committee's purview and that if individuals wish to explore
topics not included in the committees charge, they could file a minority report to the
Nancy then raised the question of controlling the output levels, but questions were raised
about the ability of the Town's authority to regulate/control output, even if the Town
owned it. Nancy said that if we were to identify serious concerns there is a duty to
warn. Peter responded that after watching the video clip that was distributed and reading,
he was actually more concerned now about emissions in the home from cordless
telephone and wireless internet base stations/routers, cell phones, and baby monitors than
cell towers. Sue pointed out that it is not possible to demonstrate proof of no harm from
these sources, and there is no ultimate truth in these matters.
No one seemed particularly comfortable with the 600 and 1,000 foot setbacks designated
in the proposed by-law and there was a sense that 500 meters or 1500 feet satisfied the
precautionary principle. Ray said the committee should focus on providing a clear
statement of Federal requirements and related constraints; recommend that setbacks from
residences, schools and public building should be at least x number of feet; and urge the
Selectboard to decide how best to proceed. There is no rationale for over-riding Federal
Peter reported that in a telephone discussion with Jeff McQueen, Jeff said he thought the
potential sites would all be on high elevations in excess of 1500 feet from homes and
schools. There was some discussion of potential locations Ray said a map was produced
in association with the Broadband committee and he would endeavor to locate these
spots and delineate a 500 meter circumference. He also pointed out that he wanted this
committee to do its work in haste because he wants cell phone service for security and it
seemed to him that no potential site was closer than 500 meters to a home or building.
Bob made the specific recommendation that our report (1) begin with a clear statement
about the Federal guidelines and make it clear that we may not be more restrictive on the
basis of health considerations, (2) then move to our concerns, and (3) our
recommendations and finally (4) citations. Ray supported this and so did Sue and there
seemed to be general agreement. Ray also made it clear that to try to go beyond specific
Federal guidelines could lead to legal problems. Bob said he would look into the precise
source for the proposed offset distances (or setbacks) and the specific FCC rules. It was
noted that it may be possible to create distance limits that can be argued as being due to
other than health concerns and that these may be able to be enforced.
A lengthy discussion ensued on the topic of selecting studies to read and gaining access
to complete articles (rather than abstracts). Gordon said that if a search is conducted
from terminal in the University library, articles can be downloaded as PDFs and
circulated. Some reluctance was expressed concerning reading assigned articles and
some individuals expressed an interest in selecting and reading articles on their own. It
was also proposed that a great deal of further reading might be of no value if 500 meters
(or ~ 1600 feet) can demonstrably be shown to be adequate. In addition to examining
peer review literature, Bob pointed out that a published "impact factor" allows readers to
evaluate the relative importance of various journals based on the frequency with which
they are cited as sources. Thus a low impact journal might carry articles that were
rejected by others for any number of reasons.
Peter said he would conduct another search in Medline and look specifically for studies
relating specifically to cell tower base stations. (1500 feet=457.2 meters; 500
meters=1640.4 feet). In an extended discussion of the Brazil study Bob described how
units of intensity (how much power lands in a given area) are reported -- microwatts per
square centimeter vs. milliwatts per square meter, and voltage. He noted the dramatic
fall off in exposures as reported, saying that at about 500 meters, one begins to hit the
background noise of other pollutants. He and others commented on the absence of any
commentary in this article concerning socio-economic factors that might influence
The meeting was adjourned at 9:05 p.m.
Minutes of the July 17, 2012 Meeting
The meeting came to order shortly after 7 p.m. in the Town Hall on July 17, 2012.
After a few corrections to the June 19 and June 25 minutes were recorded, the
meeting moved to discussion.
Brian Emond reported on his findings with regard to siting guidelines and noted
that in general, the precautionary principle is not being observed. Acknowledging
that it is impossible to declare any distance as completely "safe" he said that by
setting an offset of 600 meters would likely observe the precautionary principle
would be "safest". He said he found many (26) articles that showed a correlation
between base station locations and frequency output and negative health effects,
including higher incidences of cancer, negative effects on neurobehavioral and
cardiovascular functions, and other non-specific health symptoms. The several
studies that found no significant correlation between RF/ EMF and negative health
issues still urged that there needs to be further studies on health effects.
Bob commented on a comprehensive review he had examined, the National
Radiological Protection Board's Review of the Scientific Evidence for Limiting
Chuck presented his findings and as he subsequently prepared a written summary
in a letter to the Planning Board, that summary is presented below. Essentially,
Chuck said that as we cannot legally address environmental concerns at all, he
proposed adopting a guideline that recommends an overlay zone defining the siting
requirements at 2000 feet from any Public Way. In the following animated
discussion that followed, questions remained about the role of repeaters and this
topic was to be addressed at the next meeting.
Ray distributed three color-coded maps of Leverett depicting a 500 meter radius of
a circle around each of the three base tower sites that were offered to the
Broadband committee as likely candidate sites. These color-coded sheets also
revealed the potential "view sites" -- estimated visual impacts -- as prepared for the
Fiber Optic Project. It appears from these maps that there is no part of town where
these three sites regarded as "prime" pose objectionable aesthetic problems.
He also distributed a two page extract from Workgroup Report: Base Stations and
Wireless Networks -- Radiofrequency (RF) Exposures and Health Consequences,
[Valberg, PA et al. Environmental Health Perspectives 155(3)416-424, 2007].
This report from the World Health Organization summarizes several years of
international consensus group studies which conclude overwhelmingly that "these
separate venues of scientific investigation provide little support for adverse health
effects arising from RF exposures at levels below current international standards."
In discussion, there was a general sense of agreement that by recommending base
tower sites at locations at least 2000 feet from any public way, the committee
would not have to contend with the legalities of invoking health concerns by
asserting that lesser distances would very likely have a deleterious effect on local
real estate prices.
At this point Chuck raised another issue, which is that the currently proposed bylaw
prohibits towers within limits that might impact endangered species: By
inserting language more restrictive than state and federal requirements, the
proposed by-laws would likely render two of the identified sites as unusable
precisely because of the stricter proposals. The sense of the discussion that
followed was that more options for mitigation and construction controls would
kick in if the Town abandoned the proposed restrictions listed in .4920 and
deferred to relevant existing rules. Chuck also pointed out that none of the state or
federal guidelines address the effects of EMFs on wildlife or habitats but there was
some disagreement over the adequacy of regulatory frameworks to adequately
protect such zones.
It was moved, seconded and so voted to propose as a final recommendation the
adoption of set back for any proposed tower to be defined as 2000 feet from any
public way. It was agreed to make every effort to engage with the planning board
to study and remove the pertinent wording in the proposed by-law referring to
habitats, and rely on existing procedures for mitigation. There a sense that the
Committee should underscore in the final report the omission of radiation effects
on habitats and animals from existing jurisdiction.
Further scrutiny of the wording prompted two other points for consideration: the
potential role of repeaters as a source of EMFs, and possible concerns about
archeological sites. Several people agreed to look into the matter of the repeaters,
and Ray said he would inquire with Mitch Mulholland regarding archeological
Nancy raised the issue once again of inviting representatives from the Planning
Board and the Conservation Commission, a recommendation Chuck had
previously asked to be inserted into corrected minutes of June 19. There was a
sense that the Selectboard would be better advised if these Town committees
together could address these questions and, ideally, work together to forge an
improved proposed by-law that is in accord with pertinent federal, state and local
regulations and also a public education plan to assure passage at the April Town
Lively discussion followed with regard to the needs of species versus human
needs. Nancy cited a study that showed found harm to immature amphibians.
Nancy and Brian Emond offered evidence of up to 90% mortality among tadpoles
exposed to radiation and expressed grave concern about the steady encroachment
of humanity on endangered species. Balmori A, Mobile Phone Mast Effects on
Common Frog (Rana temporaria) Tadpoles: The City Turned into a
Laboratory. ELECTROMAGNETIC BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE , 2010 , V 29 ,
N1-2 , P 31-35.
Sue confirmed her shared concern about endangered species, and said that our role
is to clarify and simplify: it boils down to how to bring cell service to Leverett
while protecting endangered species. The protections in place are not perfect but
tell us we are doing our best to protect the species. Ray announced that if he has a
heart attack and because of irregular Verizon service and no cell service is unable
to call for an ambulance, he becomes an endangered species.
Peter commented on a duty to warn that Nancy had mentioned in an earlier
meeting, and said that by his reading, there might be a duty to alert people genuine
concerns about cell phone use. He noted that in May 2011, the WHO/International
Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified radio frequency electromagnetic
fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans, based on an increased risk for glioma, a
malignant type of brain cancer associated with wireless phone use, although the
results have been challenged. (Mobile phone use and glioma risk: comparison of
epidemiological study results with incidence trends in the United States. Little M
P; et al.. British Medical Journal Clinical Research ed 344:1147, 2012). Nancy
Emond wondered if the elementary school should distribute warnings. Peter added
a caution that there quite apart from personal cell phone use, ongoing litigation
addresses the use of wireless service in pubic schools, and he also said that some of
the published articles have commented that until research provides more definitive
conclusions there may be risks in simply creating anxiety, worry and activity
where it is not yet clearly warranted.
It was pointed out that the Committee's charge specifically said to separate cell
phone from cell tower issues, and Bob agreed it would be wise to exercise caution
using cell phones close to the ear, and observed that texting is actually safer. He
suggested reading pertinent passages in the informational notes he sent to the
committee previously, and placing the matter in an appendix to the
recommendations. The appendix should also include a section describing the
breadth of the discussion, he said.
Nancy opened proposing that the group could agree on a summary statement of
general findings, and as an effort toward beginning that discussion, there was
agreement that a number of articles found specific effects demonstrating some
health effects at various distances from Cell Towers.
A meeting date was set for Tuesday the 24th in hopes that representatives from the
Planning Board and Conservation Commission would attend.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:10 pm.
Minutes of the July 24th Meeting
The Meeting came to order shortly after 7 p.m. the Town Hall.
Present were: Bob Hallock, Steve Wenczel, Nancy Emond, Brian Emond, Chuck Dauchy, Sue
Leschine, Ray Bradley, Peter Reich, Nancy Grossman, and two guests, Laurie Brown from the
Conservation Committee and Richard Nathorst from the Planning Board.
Corrections and changes to the July 17 minutes were duly noted. There was a brief discussion of
the final sentence concerning consensus on an overall statement regarding conclusions drawn
from the various studies that had been read and discussed, and possibly including Bob's chart
derived from the Brazil study. Out of courtesy to the guests and in deference to the main topic of
the meeting, this discussion was to be continued at the end of the meeting.
Chuck pointed out that in view of the legal constraints on allowing health effects to influence
zoning decisions, the proposed overlay district honors those concerns but the conclusions are not
based on health, and with regard to a perceived threat to health, the overlay concept limiting cell
tower construction to sites more than 2000 feet from a public way provides assurance that no
tower will be in proximity to residences or public buildings, thus rendering this matter one less
challenge with which to contend.
For the next hour and a half the discussion focused on sections 4919 and 4920 of the proposed
by-laws, specifically 4919 items J and K, and 4920, items 1-8.
In addition, concerning the matter of repeaters, Richard explained that the principal use of
repeaters is for tower-to-tower communication, generally the only type or repeater used in cell
towers, and such repeaters would be easily covered by both proposals. The second variety is
"point-to-point" which functions in a manner similar to a beam of light between two towers. He
added that given conditions in Leverett, it is "unlikely there would be any" repeaters. Ray
proposed that relevant wording refer to both cell towers an cell tower repeaters.
Regarding 4919, it was proposed that item K be deleted entirely, as the suggested 2000 foot
offset assures that the distances referred to would no longer be relevant. It was recommended
that item J be reconsidered to satisfy the fall zone requirements and at the same time address the
specific wording concerning "property line or road right of way." Items Section 4919, items J
and K are:
J. The minimum distance from the base of the Tower, to be measured from the vertical center
line of the monopole, to any property line or road right-of-way shall be at least 1.5 times the
height of the Tower to ensure an adequate fall zone.
K. The Tower shall be located a minimum distance of 1,000 feet from school buildings,
playgrounds and athletic fields. Towers shall be located at least 600 feet from any residential
structure to minimize impact on residential uses.
A protracted discussion ensued over items one through four of 4920. Laurie explained that the
Conservation Commission only deals with moving water, while the state deals with standing or
still water, but does not consider vernal pools or endangered species. With regard to any access
road, she added that state regulations would kick in at the time of road construction and there is
wording in state guidelines to allow accommodation whereas the proposed wording declares a
flat prohibition thus potentially excluding as many as two potential sites in town.
Chuck then noted a blind spot in the wording regarding Vernal Pools since some Vernal Pools
are not under regulatory protection at all if certain criteria are not met, and participation by the
National Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) would strengthen the review
process in that regard.
After much discussion there appeared to be agreement on proposed revised wording of the first
paragraph of 4920. The original states:
4920. Siting Criteria for Towers & WT Facilities
No Tower or WT Facility with the exception of Repeaters not located on Towers shall be located
within any of the following prohibited areas. All distances are to be measured from the nearest
property line of the Facility Site.
1. Massachusetts or federally regulated wetland or Massachusetts Certified Vernal Pool;
2. The habitat of any State-listed Rare or Endangered Wildlife or Rare Plant Species;
3. Within 100' horizontally from any Massachusetts regulated wetland;
4. Within 200' horizontally of the Outer Riparian Zone of any river or
5. Within 500' horizontally from any Historic District;
6. Within 500' horizontally from any known archaeological site;
7. Within 1000' horizontally from any school buildings, playgrounds and athletic fields; and
8. Within 600' horizontally from any residential structure.
The proposed revision would read:
4920. Siting Criteria for Towers & WT Facilities
Installation and development of Cell Towers shall meet all pertinent Federal and State
regulations including review by the National Heritage and Endangered Species Program. No
Tower or WT Facility or Repeater shall be located within any of the following prohibited areas.
All distances are to be measured from the nearest property line of the Facility Site.
1. Massachusetts or federally regulated wetland or within 100' of a Massachusetts Certified
Vernal Pool or potential Vernal Pool identified by the State;
2. The habitat of any State-listed Rare or Endangered Wildlife or Rare Plant Species, subject to
3. Any known archaeological site subject to pertinent Federal and State law.
Nancy Grossman expressed concern to Ray's proposed addition of "subject to review" to Item 2.
She said this proposed by-law was copied from other towns and added that state regulations do
not in her view provide adequate protection and she favored more restrictive wording. Chuck
pointed out that current wording in the proposed by-law eliminates one site completely and
renders another questionable. He said he believed the wording forged by the committee provides
adequate controls, especially now if the NHESP is added, and he noted that more prohibitive
rules would knock out potential sites, adding that maps showing wetlands and Vernal Pools may
change. He noted that no Federal or State regulations address EMFs.
Nancy asked Richard about the sources for certain prohibitions that were written into 4920, and
he acknowledged that the specific setbacks for schools, residences and schools were "arbitrary."
Nancy asserted that this is a grave matter adding that species and habitats are becoming
extinct every day. She was concerned that the committee is treating the issue lightly. Ray
responded that in his view, species loss is more important than global warming, and that if he
thought this proposed wording would lead to extinction, he would support strong prohibitions.
Bob summarized the discussion so far by suggesting that we examine items 1,3, and 4, and deal
with item two separately. There was agreement that the state takes care of items 3 and 4. With
regard to Item 1, Sue stated that this process of clarification is offering a more consistent point of
view: it clarifies a few confusing items, eliminates inconsistencies, and , with the new, improved
wording, renders item 1 stricter. It also eliminates prohibition of sites as described by Chuck.
Precise wording of item 2 remained unresolved.
Discussion turned to the question of Archeological sites. Ray reported that his communications
with Mitch Mulholland provided some guidance on the archeological site matter, Item 6 in the
Planning Board's proposed by-law. Like the list of endangered species, the official listing of
identified archeological sites is a closely guarded secret. Between that unknown and the
vicissitudes of Native American claims, the topic is a "moving target". But developers are
subject to appropriate and requisite reviews. Chuck recited some existing safeguards and
suggested that this prohibition, Item 6, is unnecessarily restrictive as long as we state that
Federal requirements for review must be satisfied.
Chuck suggested the committee meet for one more round to focus specifically on these specific
Discussion then focused on approaches to the final report to the Selectboard, and there was a
sense that the final report should include a broad summary, and, as Brian pointed out, should
emphasize that these recommendations do follow the precautionary principle, a topic that has
come up frequently. Bob proposed that the preamble of the report to the Selectboard focus on
the intent. The summary should point out that while addressing property values specifically, the
proposed modifications also satisfy many health concerns. It should also be noted that certain
standards are coming under review and there is a repeated call for more research.
At this time, the discussion returned to the topic broached during the review of minutes
concerning a broad statement of consensus of the group's findings on health effects. To be
discussed and finalized at the next meeting: Ray proposed the following wording: a
statement that "The Committee read and reviewed a great many articles and abstracts and
concluded that some studies offer evidence of deleterious health effects on humans closer to Cell
Towers, depending on the proximity to the source of EMFs and duration of exposure."
Concluding a discussion that began earlier, Nancy Emond reiterated her desire to include in the
report the chart Bob developed based on data in the Brazil study. Peter demurred, saying that it
would be risky to offer this without a clear description of what the study did and did not show
concerning risk of mortality. Sue had commented earlier on the distinction between correlation
and causation. Peter resumed this theme citing Koch's postulates as the the accepted model of
disease causation, first developed in the 1890s and updated for the 21st century. A key
component of this concept of causation is replication, the point being that a single study merely
tests a hypothesis. The medical literature provides many examples of scientific misconduct
when replication of results fails to validate the claims. He said he favors including the chart with
an explanatory caption along with other citations affirming a greater degree of safety beyond 500
The next meeting will be on September 4th.
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