Charlestown council to consider legal action against emergency radio tower for first responders

Charlestown council to consider legal action against emergency radio tower for first responders

The Westerly Sun

CHARLESTOWN — The Town Council is considering taking legal action against a state proposal to build a 178-foot emergency services radio tower along Route 1 in Charlestown.

The council will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday and go into executive session to discuss potential litigation concerning the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency’s FCC filing to build the radio tower.  

It follows action the council took in April to allocate $25,000 from its contingency fund to take “any and all action” to ensure the public health and safety of residents in relation to the proposed tower.

The agency wants to build the tower off Route 1 northbound on state land about 182 feet from the state Department of Transportation’s salt storage garage on Cross Mills Road.

The council voted to oppose the proposal in March and to notify the FCC of its objections.

Councilors said the structure, jutting into the air alongside Route 1 at Cross Mills, would be an eyesore. They also questioned whether the state had thoroughly explored alternative sites.

The state designated Route 1 as a scenic roadway in 2002.

The tower is intended to be part of an 800-megahertz radio network proposed after the Sept. 11 attacks and built with federal Homeland Security money.

Rhode Island EMA Director Peter T. Gaynor said the tower would help to fill in several “dead spaces” of portable Motorola radio coverage for police, fire and other emergency responders, such as the U.S. Coast Guard.

The state has 27 towers already installed as part of the $10.2 million system.

Gaynor said the agency looked at several alternative sites, but that the 4782 Post Road site was the only “viable location” for the tower.

Gaynor also said no existing structures, historic or otherwise, would be affected, and that the tower could withstand a Category 4 hurricane.

Town Building and Zoning Official Joseph Warner told the state agency on April 3 that the proposal is not immune from local land-use regulations and must comply with the town’s zoning ordinance.

A decision on the tower’s construction ultimately rests with the FCC.

However, while the federal government is immune from local zoning regulations, Warner argues that at the state level a “balancing of public interests” test must be applied.


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