More information requested for Antrim cell tower proposal

  • Antrim resident Richard Block speaks against the proposed cell tower.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Antrim resident Martha Pinello asks a question during a public hearing about a proposed cell tower on Thursday.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Rhode Island attorney Francis Parisi, who was representing the applicants for a proposed cell tower in Antrim, addresses the planning board on Thursday.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Antrim Police Chief Scott Lester, left, and Fire Chief Marshall Gale said the proposed cell tower would benefit emergency responses in town, especially in the Route 9 area of town.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/7/2019 5:01:43 PM

Antrim Planning Board members told the attorney for a proposed cell tower Thursday that the applicants would have to provide more information, including proof of hardship, for the numerous waivers requested such as one asking the town to wave its regulations regarding cell tower height limitations.

“I think you clearly need to say this is a hardship, and it’s more than saying it’s a hardship because this is the way we want to do it,” Planning Board chairwoman Janet McEwen said. “We want you to show us the real hardship.”

Vertex Tower Assets, LLC and New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC – a trade name for AT&T Mobility – have submitted an application to construct a 175-foot, lattice-style tower on a vacant, 20-acre lot at the end of Loverns Mill Road next to the Windsor town line.

The facility in total would be 60-feet by 60-feet and would be placed near the middle of the property.

During a public hearing on Thursday, the Planning Board requested the applicants submit data about potential changes in cell reception if the cell tower was at lower heights than currently proposed.

McEwen told Rhode Island attorney and project representative Francis Parisi that he should also provide more information on why five requested variances are needed for the project’s approval.

The board also discussed requiring a third-party review of the application’s data relative to the tower’s height and structure, but no decisions were made.

AT&T already has an agreement in place to use the tower if built, but there is space for up to five wireless broadband telecommunications carriers to use the tower. There is also space to put Antrim police and fire’s antennas for radio communications on the structure.

The structure is proposed to primarily provide service to the Route 9 corridor. Thursday’s meeting allowed the public its first opportunity to comment during the hearing.

Abutter Richard Block said he was against the proposed tower as the applicants asked for a number of variances from the town’s “very detailed” zoning ordinances regarding cell towers in the rural conservation district.

The applicants have requested waivers from the following zoning ordinances: no wireless service facilities shall be over 100 feet tall; ground mounted wireless service facilities shall not be more than 20 feet over the tree line within a 50-foot radius of the installation; facilities need to be more than twice the tower’s height away from any building, property line, public road, or public recreational area; any antenna array shall not be more than four feet in diameter; lattice towers are prohibited. A waiver has also been requested for the submission of a formal storm water drainage plan.

Block also said he was concerned about the tower’s potential to accommodate 5G technology, as the research he has done thus far on 5G radiation “scares the living daylights” out of him.

“The tower proposal by Vertex Tower Associates is an attempt to establish a foothold for easy future expansion,” Block said. “… it is in the best interest of Antrim that the board deny this proposal as it far exceeds the town’s zoning ordinances and therefore its citizen.”

Martha Pinello, who identified herself as a former Planning Board member and someone who works for a company that provides environmental site assessments for cell tower locations, also opposed the proposed cell tower’s application due to the number of variances requested.

“I propose that projects that have more than three variance requests – you have to look at a redesign,” Pinelo said. “… The possibility of a cell tower is appealing for our emergency service needs, but the project does not meet the zoning requirements, therefore it needs to be redesigned.”

Parisi said the waivers were all needed in order to satisfy the technological needs of the project.

Concerns about the project’s impact on wildlife – specifically the impact to migratory birds – was brought up, with Parisi saying such a study is required by federal law before the project can be constructed.

Both Police Chief Scott Lester and Fire Chief Marshall Gale spoke to the benefits of the project from a public safety standpoint, though both made a point to say they were not supporting or opposing the project.

“In that corridor, cell coverage is extremely spotty at best,” Gale said. “We respond to numerous incidents in that corridor, so certainly any coverage we could get would be a big improvement.”

Both Gale and Lester said technological advancements are requiring more cell phone reception. Gale said the ambulance’s heart monitors are linked to emergency responders cell phones so the data can be sent directly to the hospital in real time, while Lester said cell phones are starting to more commonly be used by police instead of handheld radio systems.

After more than two hours of discussion the hearing was continued to the board’s next meeting on Jan. 17.

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com.


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