After an intense debate Tuesday, Scituate officials shot down a second attempt to put an AT&T cell tower next to the Wampatuck Elementary School.
The argument has pitted residents against each other, depending on where they live. Neighbors of a proposed site at Tilden Road are pushing for the tower to go next to Wampatuck Elementary School.
Meanwhile, parents of students who attend the school want to keep the tower as far away as possible from children, and locate the 150-foot-tall tower hundreds of feet away on Tilden Road.
Selectmen decided Tuesday to bar the project from Wampatuck school and let the Zoning Board process continue at the Tilden Road site, with an eye toward finding yet another location.
“Possibly take a better look at Niles [Terrace],” said Selectmen Chairman Shawn Harris.
A road encumbered by wetlands, the Niles Terrace site has been suggested by a neighborhood group as a viable alternative. AT&T said it wouldn’t be interested in the site, but residents have petitioned for a warrant article to develop it as an alterative.
“It’s not something I was thinking about before tonight, but if there is a way to do it right, [we should],” Harris said.
Selectman John Danehey said looking at more options would only delay the inevitable, and rope more residents into a "not-in-my-backyard' debate, just in another neighborhood.
“We’re kicking the can further down the road [to people] who probably don’t know about this,” Danehey said. “…My thought is it would be better at Wampatuck…I don’t think we should forgo the option to put it at Wampatuck, given we’re trying to take it out of a neighborhood people are living and putting it on town property.”
Danehey suggested to open up the Wampatuck site as a solution, but the motion did not receive a second and was defeated.
“I have four kids myself and I wouldn’t want it at their school,” Selectman Tony Vegnani said. “I think in my opinion we should put it back to the ZBA and let them find an alterative site that may be better fitting as opposed to putting it at a school.”
The debate about a cell tower has been ongoing since 2010, when AT&T asked private property owners at 361 Tilden Rd. to erect a tower.
Town officials suggested putting the tower at Wampatuck instead, and AT&T eventually withdrew the proposal.
In April, the cell tower came back before the board to revisit the Wampatuck school option, a suggestion that was met by strong resident opposition. The proposal was defeated.
Similar complaints about health were brought up again on Tuesday as selectman revisited the Wampatuck location at the request of AT&T.
Residents living within 500 feet of the proposed site on Tilden Road – the magic number of radio frequency safety, residents said -- applauded the idea.
“If you’re putting it at the Wampatuck site, I’m correct in saying it’s a considerable distance further from the actual school,” said a Tilden Road resident, who said she lives 60 feet from the proposed tower site. “…It’s in our backyards. It’s right there and so much closer, and it’s going to have twice the effect”
Yet parents whose children would be within 500 feet of the tower at Wampatuck were once again vehemently opposed to something that might have health consequences for the students.
“I don’t understand how it could be considered to exposing 25 percent of the children in this town to the risk cell tower pose until definitive risks are known,” said Carla Breitenstein, who lives on Marshall Avenue.
“We recognize there is no good solution,” said Tracy Shepard, who lives on Cairo Circle. “…The points to consider are the pains presumably are going to be felt by someone. At this point, minimize the number of people who will feel the pain.”
The discussion will move back to the Zoning Board, where the Tilden Road site will continue to be vetted.