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Bedford officials: 1-year hiatus on cell tower proposal

Union Leader Correspondent

April 21. 2017 11:56PM
Documents on file at Bedford Town Hall depict a proposed cell tower at 77 Chubbuck Road in Bedford. (Courtesy)

BEDFORD — After numerous residents voiced opposition this week to a proposed cell tower on Chubbuck Road, the Town Council agreed that it would not accept any application for a cell tower lease on that specific site for at least one year.

The council also agreed to establish a committee that will study the placement of future cell towers in Bedford, along with cellular usage and emergency communication requirements.

“It is coming. It is going to happen,” said Town Councilor David Gilbert. “We have to find the right places for this.” A group must come together to study the issue and create a future plan, explained Gilbert.

Several citizens attended a council meeting this week where the proposed tower was discussed. Town officials are in the process of considering potentially three future cell tower proposals on different parcels throughout Bedford.

Blue Sky Towers, LLC, was hoping to enter into lease negotiations with the town manager for the town-owned property on Chubbuck Road near the transfer station; Verizon Wireless intends to be the primary carrier if the project moves forward.

However, town officials decided Wednesday to halt the lease negotiations for at least one year, citing a proposal being reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission to possibly use public utility rights-of-way for cellular telecommunication use.

“I would like to see a lease — I don’t think that is unreasonable,” said Town Councilor John Schneller, stressing the board would still have the option of reviewing the lease before anything is set in stone.

According to Earl Duval, attorney for Blue Sky Towers, Verizon Wireless has a significant gap in coverage in the Bedford area. Even if a lease was negotiated, Duval explained that the project would still need to be reviewed and approved by the local zoning and planning boards.

“I do live in this area of town and have poor service,” said Town Councilor Melissa Stevens, who questioned the radiation exposure from cell towers.

“If you are compliant, you are safe — that is the whole idea,” said Dr. Donald Hayes, an independent contractor with a Ph.D. in radiation safety. If the tower plan moves forward, he said there would be an analysis of the site to ensure that it could comply with federal regulations for human exposure utilizing a single carrier and additional carriers.

“This is a really bad idea for the town. All my friends and neighbors here agree, and I would hope you take our concerns seriously,” said Lyndsee Paskalis of Nathan Cutler Drive.

Her sentiment was echoed by numerous residents who packed a crowded Town Council meeting to voice their concerns about health risks associated with cell towers, the potential decrease in property values, impacts on the environment and more.

Holding signs that read ‘Don’t cell Bedford out,’ several parents expressed concern about the Chubbuck Road site being too close to Riddle Brook Elementary School.

“Why jeopardize young children. Think clearly with your decision,” said Marie McGee of Braeburn Court.

Council Chairman Kelleigh Murphy said she was opposed to constructing a cell tower on the town-owned property, adding it would only generate $19,500 a year in rent from the proposed lease.

Although the police chief mentioned the need for an improved radio communications network in town, Murphy stressed that the emergency infrastructure would not need to be placed on a cell tower.

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