LENOX — It’s down to the wire for the town’s efforts to gain voter approval of a new telecommunications bylaw that seeks to improve cell reception in underserved areas.
An opposition group has been speaking out at Planning Board and Select Board meetings, voicing opinions about health hazards of radio-frequency emissions from cell installations.
A recent consultant’s study found widespread spotty cell reception in much of Lenox, including downtown, the southeast section and the village of Lenox Dale, among other areas.
The Planning Board has been wrapping up details of a telecommunications zoning bylaw for action by voters at a special town meeting Dec. 8. A two-thirds supermajority is required for approval. A legally required public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 29 in person at Town Hall or via Zoom.
On Thursday, Lenox Citizens for Safe Cell Siting will hold its own session at Town Hall and via Zoom to hear speakers “explain what rights Lenox should retain to ensure that our new bylaw will protect the beauty of our town, our health and our property values,” according to a statement from the organizers.
A leading opponent, Courtney Gilardi of East Street in Lenox and a former resident of southeast Pittsfield, summed up the group’s opposition at a recent Select Board meeting. Gilardi has been among residents of the Pittsfield neighborhood involved in extended litigation against the city over a Verizon cell tower off South Street, but within the residential area.
She stated that her home, and those of several neighbors, “have been rendered uninhabitable due to radio-frequency emissions” from the adjacent cell facility less than 500 feet from her house on Alma Street.
Gilardi urged town leaders to postpone action on a new wireless zoning bylaw. “All I want is to go home and be safe in my home,” she told Select Board members, “and all I want is to prevent what happened in Pittsfield from happening again in Lenox.”
Gilardi called for “a strong wireless zoning bylaw” including a “substantial setback for our schools or a school exclusion zone” and “protection for our health, safety and property values.”
She asserted that “nobody is against better connectivity” but objected to towers 250 feet or less from residential properties. “Take your time and do this right,” she said. A review by outside legal counsel is needed, Gilardi added, “so everyone in Lenox is connected and protected.”
Guest speakers at Thursday’s forum organized by opponents include:
• Kent Chamberlin, emeritus professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of New Hampshire’s College of Engineering and Physical Science. He served on the New Hampshire State Commission that researched health and environmental impacts of wireless communication.
• Theodora Scarato, executive director of Environmental Health Trust, a nonprofit that focuses on wireless radiation.
• Scott McCollough, described as a telecommunications attorney.
• Andrew Molnar, a citizen involved in rewriting a wireless zoning bylaw for Ithaca, N.Y.
The session will be hosted by Jonathan Mirin of Hilltown Health, a grassroots environmental group based in Huntington, serving communities west of Greenfield.
The one-hour presentation, following by a half-hour Q&A session, with questions to be submitted in advance, begins at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Town Hall Auditorium, 6 Walker St.
Questions can be submitted via email to email@example.com.
According to the citizens’ group, the following issues will be discussed: Health effects of electromagnetic radiation exposure from cell towers/antennas; what the FCC’s 1996 Telecommunications Act tells municipalities they can and can’t do; and examples of wireless zoning bylaws already in place.
A similar forum was held in October 2020, when the Lenox Housing Authority was considering an application for a low-power cell antenna to be installed within the chimney of the Curtis subsidized housing complex in the center of downtown. The proposed project was sidelined after Curtis residents and opposition groups raised concerns at public meetings.
View today’s meeting via Zoom at tinyurl.com/37fcn36p