Franklin’s Town Planning Board decided unanimously to reject Cellco Partnership/Verizon Wireless’ special use permit application Thursday afternoon in a special meeting held at Town Hall. The company applied for the special use permit to build a 140 foot telecommunications tower at 60 Gaston Street in Franklin, designed to help offset the capacity of the two existing Verizon towers in town.
Ultimately, Planning Board members were uncomfortable with approving the permit because the company continually refused requests to supply the town with an Erlang study, which would measure the amount of traffic density that would emerge from the proposed telecommunications tower. According to Town Planner Mike Grubermann, the only way to ascertain if there is a need for a new wireless telecommunications facility is through an Erlang study.
Furthermore, the company did not comply with the Town’s Wireless Telecommunications Ordinance, 154.05(F)(1), which states that a company wishing to place a tower within town limits must conduct an Erlang study to demonstrate if there is a true need for more capacity. At last week’s public hearing, company representatives maintained that the two existing towers would reach full capacity in the near future, but for some reason, the company was unwilling to go ahead with the study.
Verizon also refused to provide any information to the Planning Board or Grubermann to explain the proposed tower’s height and location.
Their conspicuous behavior in refusing to conduct the Erlang study and explain other items, even after Town Zoning Administrator Mike Grubermann offered the company leeway with a confidentially agreement, raised the eyebrows of Grubermann and Planning Board members who later decided to deny the company the special-use permit.
“I even went so far, in offering them or suggesting a confidentially agreement,” said Grubermann at the meeting. “Not even with the town, but with our consultants directly because a second a piece of paper hits the town it becomes a public record,” he said. “They even refused that.”
Planning Board members were also hesitant to approve the permit for another reason, fearing the action would set a bad precedent that could undermine the town in the future. “In reading the documentation I think for us to back-off of requesting the Erlang study, and I mean the ultimate result is going to be an incomplete application as the reason for denial. But if we back-off of that request we open ourselves up to any company whatsoever to come in say they didn’t do this so why should we,” said Planning Board member Larry Hollified.
“Mike Grubermann really has the visual discretion to determine whether an application is complete or incomplete, and at his recommendation in pending that this application is incomplete, I think it has been shown and agreed upon by everyone,” said Planning Board Chairman Dave Rowland. Subsequently, the board approved the findings of fact and denied the special use permit to the company to close the meeting.