MANCHESTER — City regulators will decide later this month whether to allow a 100-foot cell phone tower in a South Mammoth Road neighborhood, a neighborhood that has resisted the tower for the past two years.
Mobile phone giant AT&T recently filed papers at City Hall requesting a variance for the tower, marking the third time the Zoning Board of Adjustment will consider the issue. In its filings, AT&T consultants say the company needs the tower because it expects much more demand for wireless service, especially as it promotes its 4G LTE network in Manchester.
Particulary vexing, the company maintains, is the poor service in certain south Manchester homes, businesses and other structures that increasingly rely on wireless service for their communication needs.
The zoning board will hold a special hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, at City Hall, said Max Sink, deputy director for planning and community development. The board will consider the single variance request at the meeting.
In 2011, the zoning board rejected a variance for the tower, which would be located on wooded property behind 235 S. Mammoth Road.
Earlier this summer, a U.S. District Court judge told AT&T to bring the matter back to city regulators one last time before he rules on an appeal that AT&T brought to federal court.
“The court has said ‘we want you to look at this additional information,’” said Sink.
The neighborhood, adjacent to Green Acres Elementary School, has consistently fought the tower. One resident, Manchester lawyer Kathy Sullivan, said Manchester zoning ordinances allow many places for cell towers.
“AT&T created its own problems by not planning ahead and building a network that complies with zoning,” Sullivan wrote in an email for this article. “Now AT&T wants this neighborhood to pay the price for their lack of foresight.”
In its filings, AT&T said it looked at 15 sites in the area. They would not work for a number of reasons: Holy Cross sisters, the Assumption Greek Church and Manchester Water Works turned them down. The McLaughlin Middle School principal is opposed. Other areas were too far away. The fire station at East Industrial Park Drive would need a 200 foot tower, and that would run into problems with the Federal Aviation Administration.
AT&T consultant Dan Goulet wrote that highway coverage is no longer the most pressing issue for wireless companies. Rather, in the rapidly evolving wireless services industry, companies need to provide coverage inside homes, business and other buildings where people expect wireless access.
Consultants said last year nearly 36 percent of American homes lack a landline telephone connection, although the percentage is lower in New Hampshire.
Company consultants said the lack of a dominant tower affects “in-building coverage” for a 5.3 square mile area in south Manchester.
“More than 40 percent of Americans use their device while watching television. This also indicates a strong need for robust, in-building service,” wrote Roger Entner of Recon Analytics LLC, a paid consultant for AT&T.