The Martha’s Vineyard Commission last Thursday approved a Verizon cell phone tower in West Tisbury and a harbor fuel facility in Oak Bluffs, two projects that raised objections from residents and abutters.
The harbor fuel facility will be the subject of discussion at the Oak Bluffs annual town meeting Tuesday, where an article to fund the facility appears on the warrant.
The Verizon cell tower, which will be located off New Lane and would provide better cell phone service for the downtown West Tisbury area, was protested by residents who said the location would visually mar the landscape. Over 60 residents wrote letters in opposition to the project, with development of regional impact coordinator Paul Foley saying the project solicited a record amount of documents received by the commission from the applicant and citizens.
Others wrote in support of the project, noting that improvements in cell reception would be a benefit to residents. The original proposal for an 80-foot tower was reduced to a 66-foot tower and the designated location is outside the coastal district. There was some debate about whether the tower would be a pole, called a stealth monopole, or a monopine or fake tree. Because of height restrictions, a monopole would allow space for Verizon’s cell service only, while a monopine could allow for other carriers. The monopine would have five extra feet of branch taper on top to afford a “more realistic appearance.”
The commission will leave the decision up to the West Tisbury zoning board of appeals, which still needs to approve the project. According to the commission, the preferred option is a stealth monopole, painted a dull, flat color chosen by the zoning board.
Commissioner Erik Hammarlund, a West Tisbury resident, said he felt there should be better proactive planning for cell phone towers, saying that if the application was denied, it might force an Island discussion about their placement.
Commissioner Doug Sederholm disagreed. “Each carrier has different needs and has different existing towers and is going to build out at its own rate,” he said. “I don’t think it is for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to impose on individual towns what those towns might want for cell towers or cell coverage.”
The commission approved the project, with Mr. Hammarlund the only no vote.
The plan for the town of Oak Bluffs to establish a harbor fuel facility at the harbor to provide fuel to boats at the marina was also approved. At previous public hearings, some abutters had expressed concerns about fumes and safety and whether the town should get into the fuel business. Mark and Mike Wallace, who owned a harbor fuel facility that was shut down last summer following an oil spill, said they could provide another option but would not reopen if the town was going to be a competitor.
The land use planning committee discussed clarifying the hours when refueling would take place, Mr. Sederholm said, noting they would try to have fuel brought to the dock between 8 and 9:30 a.m. The commissioners noted that a fuel service facility is needed in the harbor, and there are plans in place for safety considerations.
“I have a hard time approving the town to take over from a private business when there are other people that could provide fuel,” commissioner Josh Goldstein said. While some commissioners said they had similar concerns, Brian Smith said those issues would be better discussed by residents at town meeting Tuesday.
The proposal was approved unanimously.