A recent opinion letter suggested we change our wireless communication bylaws. Yes, the bylaws need updating, but tossing them out completely would be detrimental. The bylaws provide our town with as much autonomy as possible when working with the minimally regulated, rapidly expanding wireless industry. That industry has profit as their number one priority, not the well-being of our residents or the needs of our town.
Current research and understanding about the health and environmental impacts of wireless radiation is stronger than ever. Simple protective bylaw measures, like safe setback distance from homes and schools, are just common sense. Federal law already allows wireless companies a tremendous amount of freedom to build out their networks. Without strong local zoning bylaws, we are at the mercy of the wireless corporations, who will most definitely overcrowd and misplace antennas if left to their own devices.
Our current bylaws do allow a robust cellular network to exist and expand. A map presented at the town listening session depicted all of the bylaw restrictions applied at once. In real life, however, only the stipulations that are relevant to a specific site request are considered. If a bylaw restriction does not make sense for the application at hand or the needs of the community, it can be (and is often) waived.
The bylaw isn’t stopping cell towers from being built. The delays and overall confusion are born from ineffective execution. Precious time and knowledge are lost with every town employee or board seat turnover. Concord also has an abundance of additional obstacles, like expansive restricted wetlands, conservation land, and registered historic sites.
I too am frustrated with how long it’s taking to improve cell coverage. I would not, however, advocate for handing the reins over to the wireless companies by eliminating the bylaws.