Revived Warrant Article Proposes Two Wireless Districts in Westwood
Amendments to the town's wireless district bylaw were dropped last year, but have been brought back among this year's warrant articles sponsored by the Westwood Planning Board.
Now, wireless communications are returning to the spotlight, and the Westwood Planning Board is proposing a series of amendments to the town's Wireless Communications Overlay District (WCOD) bylaw as part of this year's warrant articles.
If it gains favor at Town Meeting in May, the bylaw amendments would establish two separate wireless districts in town, as opposed to the one Westwood currently has. One of the two new districts would allow for developers to build free standing cell towers, while the second would allow for only minor structures.
Last year, the Planning Board reviewed the WCOD bylaw and proposed similar amendments to better regulate wireless communication facilities in town. But the board dropped the proposed amendments before bringing them to Town Meeting, citing a misconception that the amendments were meant to apply to an ongoing WCOD application.
As such, the amendments were rewritten, and are among the "most substantial" of the Planning Board's 2012 warrant articles, explained Town Planner Nora Loughnane during the first of two public hearings of the Westwood Finance Commission Monday night. The WCOD amendments are currently listed under Warrant Article 12 (see attached PDF for full language of the article, which is subject to change pending further discussion by the Westwood Planning Board).
Under the amendments, the first district, WCOD1, would allow for the installation of major or minor wireless communication facilities that are free standing or extend more than 10 feet in height above a building or structure.
WCOD2, meanwhile, would allow for only minor wireless communications facilities that are either fully contained within a building or structure, or don't extend more than 10 feet above a building or structure.
Hale Reservation, Westwood Town Hall, the new Westwood Public Library, the Carby Street Municipal Building, the Colburn School and parcels owned by Westwood's religious organizations would fall under WCOD2.
While the amendments open up opportunities for the potential of new cell towers, any developer looking to install such a structure would need to prove the need in order to move forward.
"They must prove that there's a gap in coverage, then prove that the proposed site is the only unique way of achieving the coverage," Loughnane said. "The third level of attack is that the design has the least negative effect on the surrounding area from an aesthetic point of view."
The topic raised a number of questions at Monday's public hearing, such as whether the Planning Board has reached out to certain organizations regarding the amendments.
Westwood resident Kevin McManus, meanwhile, expressed concern over the inclusion of the New Westwood Cemetery, an area that would fall under WCOD1, which means a free standing cell tower could theoretically be constructed there if approved.
"In my opinion," McManus said, "cemeteries are pretty much sacred ground, and I personally believe that it's totally inappropriate to even consider a cemetery to be considered for a cell tower."
Loughnane clarified that the specifics of the bylaw revisions will be heavily discussed by the Planning Board and will be one of the top matters of discussion at an upcoming public hearing set for Tuesday, March 13, when Westwood residents are encouraged to attend and provide input.
Westwood Patch will provide continuing information and coverage of the 2012 warrant articles proposed by the Westwood Planning Board and Westwood Board of Selectmen leading up to Town Meeting in May.