Historical Commission considers new Verizon wireless facility at FRS 

by Karina Coombs

07aFRS Existing
Bushes screen the existing equipment area on the north side in the rear of the First Religious Society church. (Photo from Historical Commission application)
07bFRS Proposed
A Photoshopped depiction of the proposed equipment area for a Verizon wireless facility at FRS. It is to be in the same area as before, but larger and taller. Screening plants are not shown. (Photo from Historical Commission application)

At its July 18 meeting, the Historical Commission opened the public hearing for a Verizon wireless facility installation at the First Religious Society (FRS) Unitarian Universalist church at 27 School Street. While the antennas would be hidden inside the church steeple, there would be ancillary equipment installed behind fencing by the north side of the building. The proposal is similar to an existing T-Mobile wireless facility already in place, but the Verizon proposal has more equipment located outside of the church and therefore potentially visible from a public way within the town’s Historic District.

Attorney Tyler Haynes from McLane Middleton represented Verizon and presented the proposal to install four antennas in the steeple. Also in attendance was Real Estate Consultant Egor Evsuk of Structure Consulting Group, Inc. 

While the project will require a Special Permit and Site Plan Review from the Planning Board, it will also require a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Commission because of its location within the Historic District. Haynes explained that they had initially applied to the Building Commissioner Jon Metivier to get a building permit for the project under the 2012 Spectrum Act, which allows for the modification of an existing wireless facility without a Special Permit provided it does not substantially alter the existing facility, but were denied.  

Haynes explained that Verizon’s antennas and radio heads would be located above the three already in use by T-Mobile, approved in 2008. Cables would run alongside existing cables within the structure and would exit the building in the rear where an enclosure currently exists containing air conditioning units. While T-Mobile’s equipment currently resides in the building’s attic, because of structural limitations, Verizon would house its equipment outside and proposes building a larger enclosure, 18 feet 10 inches by 14 feet 9 inches behind the church, which will also incorporate the existing air conditioning units. 

Bryan Sorrows, representing FRS, said that the outside location was preferable for a number of reasons and noted that much less power would be required for operation when the equipment was located outside of the building. The Verizon plan also proposes to remove an existing retaining wall, with a new one installed in its place and topped by a three foot anti-climb steel fence. An eight-foot tall white fence would screen the enclosure on its opposite side.

Historical Commission Chair Annette Lee and alternate member Jack O’Connor questioned the placement of the structure, noting that it might be visible from Church Street. Haynes said that he believed a foot of the structure and the no climb fence might be the only parts visible. Lee also expressed concerns about the taller fence. Kathleen Keller asked if other locations in Carlisle had been considered for the antennas and Haynes explained that a certain elevation was required, also noting the presence of the existing antennas making the location more attractive. 

Carlisle’s Personal Wireless Service Facilities Bylaw encourages camouflaged placement of antennas, preferably in location where systems already exist. New member Eric Adams asked if the antennas would benefit the residents of Carlisle and Evsuk replied that they would.

Verizon’s equipment will also include a 15-kilowatt natural gas generator, which will run the equipment in the event of a power outage and provide power. When asked about noise by Keller and abutter Amy Huber, Haynes explained that the system was quiet and aside from emergencies would only run once a week for a 30-minute test. “I think the record is more mixed about sound and noise,” said Huber who was also concerned about the number of antennas in the steeple and advised to share her concerns at the Planning Board hearing. 

After discussion about building materials used for the retaining wall, fencing and equipment enclosure so that they mirror the look of FRS, as well as a brief discussion of a landscaping plan, Haynes and Evsuk agreed to relay the commission’s concerns and preferences to the project’s engineers and return with a new plan. 

The hearing will continue at the board’s August 23 meeting. The public hearing for the Planning Board is scheduled for August 7. Notices will be publicized and abutters within 900 feet will be notified in writing.

New colors for Doc Marsh House

In other business, the Historical Commission considered a change in paint color for the home at 46 Lowell Street, also known as the “Doc Marsh House.” Using historic, current and mock-up photos of the house, property owner Ann Davidson walked the commission through exterior changes she wants to make to the Italianate Victorian farmhouse, including the removal of its shutters and moving from a five color scheme to four, with the body of the house going from its current mauve to navy blue. Built in 1879, the Lowell Street property was the home of Dr. Austin Marsh, Carlisle’s doctor, dentist and pharmacist from 1838 to 1898. 

“We are stewards of this home. We don’t feel like owners,” said Davidson, a designer who purchased the property with her husband Scott in November of last year and expressed the couple’s desire to keep it a grand and stately home. “I like the approach,” said Commission member Geoffrey Freeman of the new design. “I think it’s well thought out.” While Lee called the color “exceedingly dark” and more of a “city house color” than one found in a village center, the board voted unanimously to approve the application for a Certificate of Appropriateness. According to the presented proposal, the work is to start by September 1 and be completed by mid-October.

Eagle Scout project discussed

While the Board of Selectmen endorsed and awarded up to $400 to Richard Chuang for an Eagle Scout project to replace bicentennial markers throughout Carlisle at its July 11 meeting, the project made its way to the Historical Commission for its review. After some discussion on the project and materials to be used, the board agreed to invite Chuang to its next meeting to identify the locations proposed for signage. ∆