August 19, 2014Loon cell tower receives conditional approval
By DARIN WIPPERMAN
LINCOLN — After an intense debate that began in April, the planning board last Wednesday provided conditional approval to the proposed cell tower on Loon Mountain. A compromise on the tower's location between Verizon Wireless and nearby landowners had been reached the previous week.
An outstanding question was whether or not to fully seal the deal relates to review of Verizon's site plan by the town's engineer. Previously, HEB Engineers in Conway had expressed concerns about drainage and other questions. Verizon has said the compromise that puts the tower farther down the mountain with more distance to homes on Governor's Lane makes the site work and engineering easier, anyway.
Tom Hildreth, a Manchester attorney representing Verizon, anticipated the placement of the limitations on the tower's approval.
"We would welcome your approval tonight, with conditions," he informed the board early in Wednesday's discussion.
Verizon's agreement with the Westwood Home Owner's Association includes other limits on the tower. As agreed to by the planning board, the tower cannot be more than 100 feet tall, and the supporting compound will not be expanded. Also, the monopole tower, antennas, and fence around the site will be stained green in order to blend in better with the surroundings.
The deal also prohibits Verizon from leasing space on the tower to other telecommunications companies. Overall, Hildreth said conditions placed on the tower were meant "to give some assurance to the neighbors."
He continued, "We think we have peace with our neighbors."
Doug Smith, representing Westwood homeowners, confirmed Hildreth's view.
"We're all in agreement with the language of the letter," he said for the abutters attending the session last week.
Over the previous few months, several abutters expressed strong opposition to the tower. They were concerned about the impact of the tall structure on the views from their valuable land. Discussion on Wednesday was very civil by comparison.
Questions about the compound's expansion limitation took up a significant part of the hour-long discussion. Board member Paula Strickon wondered about language agreed to during negotiations on the tower placement. Banning expansion in the "vicinity" of the tower seemed a bit vague to Strickon as she reviewed the letter.
"How close is the next tower going to be?" Strickon wondered.
Both Hildreth and Loon's General Manager, Rick Kelley, said limitation on the tower support compound did not prohibit other towers at Loon.
Later discussion turned to the need for a final engineering report. Although content with the deal, Smith reminded board members about flooding issues that have occurred in the Westwood development. Abutters do not wish the project to provide more opportunity for cascading water to impact their properties.
"We're very cognizant of that issue," Romprey replied.
Verizon agreed that the HEB analysis of the final engineering plan will determine the overall viability of the selected site.
When the vote on conditional approval was taken, three board members voted in favor. Strickon abstained, and Romprey did not vote because he did not need to break a tie.
The next hearing on the issue is slated for Sept. 24. The discussion will focus on HEB's pending engineering analysis.
For now, peace prevails.