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Cell tower lawsuit against Bedford officials halted; amended plan in the works

Union Leader Correspondent

September 02. 2016 9:05PM

BEDFORD — A company seeking to construct a communications tower on town-owned property has halted its lawsuit against local officials and now intends to submit a new application for the project.

Crown Castle Towers previously filed a civil lawsuit at the U.S. District Court of New Hampshire, claiming that the Bedford Zoning Board of Adjustment unlawfully denied its application for a special exception and variance to construct a 190-foot tower at 77 Chubbuck Road where the town’s transfer station sits.

However, Crown Castle Towers recently filed a motion to temporarily halt litigation proceedings, and will instead file a new application for relief with the Zoning Board, according to Karin Elmer, town planner.

“We have not yet received the new application,” Elmer said on Friday. She said she does expect that it will be submitted soon.

Last fall, the Zoning Board rejected the proposed cell tower project — nearly a year after former Town Manager Steve Daly prematurely entered into a memorandum of option and ground lease agreement with Castle Towers to lease a portion of town property for the wireless communications facility.

Although the Town Council did not initially give Daly authority to execute the lease, town officials did, last October, ratify the lease, along with a companion authorization that was also previously executed by Daly without the council’s review.

Crown Castle had already entered into a separate agreement with Verizon Wireless to co-locate on the facility.

According to court documents, town officials have agreed to consider a new application for a modified, 130-foot wireless communications facility rather than the 190-foot tower that was originally rejected.

Attorney Earl Duval, who represents Crown Castle Towers, states in court documents that there is inadequate service available to Verizon Wireless customers within Bedford, adding the only “feasible raw land site that would serve to close the significant gap in coverage was the town-owned location.”

When the board denied the cell tower application last October, several zoning board members questioned whether Crown Castle Towers offered the “least intrusive manner.”

They noted that the tower was being proposed on residential property, and was higher than most cell towers in the area.

Several neighbors have also raised concerns about the proposal in the past year.

Denise Ricciardi of Bedford has been vocal about her opposition to the cell tower, and previously filed as an intervenor in the civil lawsuit, which she was seeking to have dismissed.

Ricciardi said this week that the newly amended proposal for a shorter cell tower will be even more dangerous for local children since the structure will be closer to the ground.

“I am still going to fight this. That lease was signed without a public hearing, and this town has done us very wrong,” she said. “My goal is not to expose these wrongdoings, but to make sure this cell tower does not go in.”

Steve Brady of the Bedford Fire Department said previously that the proposed communications tower is critical for the town’s public safety, maintaining that there are areas in Bedford where radio communication does not work, and that there are dead zones in the Chubbuck Road area.

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