Temporary 145-foot cell tower to be erected on Industrial Drive lot

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Attorney Edward Pare, left, and resident Frank Lombardo speak before the Planning Board.

NORTH SMITHFIELD – A contractor has received approval to erect a new, temporary, 145-foot cell tower at a property on Industrial Drive, a structure needed to continue Verizon service as the business’s current tower is removed from the town’s water tank.

An attorney working on behalf of American Tower, LLC was among those who attended a public hearing on the project last week, a meeting held, “out of abundance of caution,” due to an error in a notice sent out to abutters about an earlier hearing, according to Planner Mark Carruolo.

“At the time that there is going to be a location of a permanent tower, there will be a new hearing, new notice,” said Carruolo. “The Planning Board will have a hearing. It will be certified mail to the abutters as is required, and a new site may not be this site, or maybe not even close to this site.”

Carruolo’s statements followed questions from resident Frank Lombardo, who asked why the meeting on Thursday, May 9 was being held when the building permit for the project had already been issued, and construction on the base of the tower was already underway.

“They are on the site as we speak,” said Lombardo. “I find this meeting somewhat hypocritical, because you’re having the meeting, but yet they’re building on it. You gave them the approval in April, so why are we even discussing it?”

The planner explained that an error was discovered in the notice after the Planning Board had already voted to approve the project, which required a special use permit, dimensional variances and waivers.

“Normally, that wouldn’t happen,” Carruolo said.

Edward Pare, an attorney with Brown Rudnick, LLP representing American Tower apologized for the error in the original notice to abutters.

“We did obtain a temporary building permit,” Pare said, noting that the tower’s permanent location yet to be established. “We suspect it’s going to be further away from Mr. Lombardo’s property.”

Of the work already underway on the lot, a 6.7 acre parcel at 51 Industrial Drive, Pare added,”We know we still need the approval. We took the risk.”

The town notified Verizon of the need to remove the business’s current tower, located at nearby 40 Comstock Road on a water tank, so maintenance can be performed on the tank.

“Verizon would still, of course, need to continue to provide the latest technologies in wireless services to this area of North Smithfield, as we have for many years, and having these services un-interrupted is a must,” noted a letter of intent from the phone service provider.

Plans for the new, temporary replacement will give the company two years to secure a more permanent location.

For now, a 30 X 50 foot compound with a 24 X 24 foot ballast surrounded by a chain link fence will be erected at the back side of a property owned by MJJB Development, LLC, a business registered to New England Truck Solutions owner Jason Jarvis, who also owns an abutting lot.

Lombardo, a resident at nearby Laurelwood Condominiums, expressed other concerns, noting there were discrepancies between planning and building documents regarding the property location, with some referencing the lot at 51 Industrial Drive, while others stated Comstock.

“That’s got everybody’s confused,” Lombardo said, noting he worried about safety in case of the tower falling. “That’s the concern that I’ve always had from day one.”

Pare clarified that the property address is Industrial Drive, but that the tower will be located at the back side of property, which abuts Comstock.

Planning Board Chairman Gary Palardy noted there was no nefarious intent in the address error.

“It was a discrepancy, certainly, and those kinds of things need to be caught,” said Palardy, adding that his board plans to look at the town’s process in order to rectify such issues in advance in the future.

Pare said the tower’s eventual permanent location will likely be closer to Industrial Drive.

“If we”re staying on this lot – and I think we’re going to – the tower would not be in the location we’ve proposed,” he said of the temporary spot as the procedure wrapped up last week.

Planning Board members reaffirmed their prior vote to allow the structure.

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