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June 25. 2014 8:24PM

AT&T postpones controversial cell tower proposal in Merrimack


MERRIMACK -- After only four members of the Merrimack Zoning Board showed up for Wednesday's meeting about a controversial cell tower being proposed in a residential area, AT&T opted to temporarily postpone its request.

Despite the lack of attendance by board members, numerous neighbors -- most of them opposed to the cell tower construction at 121 Joppa Rd. -- showed up in full force hoping to voice concerns about the project.

Attorney Brian Grossman of Anderson & Kreiger law firm, legal representative for AT&T, requested to defer the company's proposal until the board's next meeting on July 30.

Patrick Dwyer, member of the local zoning board, explained that AT&T has a right to wait until five board members are present to cast a vote.

If the proposal was presented on Wednesday as planned, three out of the four sitting board members would have needed to support the project in order for it to move forward.

“It is their right to be able to defer this meeting so they have the best possible outcome,” said Dwyer.

A group of opponents stressed that this is the second time the issue has been scheduled and then postponed.
“It is our fault. We should have had five people here and we didn't,” acknowledged Phil Straight, zoning board member.

AT&T is proposing to build a 150-foot-high telecommunication tower at 121 Joppa Rd., hoping to lease a portion of a 24.3-acre parcel currently owned by Alan and Erin Walsh. In addition to the tower, the project includes 12 antennas, remote radio units, fiber-optic trunks, a generator, utilities, a meter bank, a six feet high chain link fence with barbed wire and a 12-foot wide access route, according to the plans on file at Merrimack Town Hall.

New towers are permitted by special exception in the town's residential district, but only if certain criteria is met.

“Why not pick an area that is already zoned commercial?” asked Dan Szymanowski following the meeting. “This will definitely impact our neighborhood, as these towers are unsightly.”

More than 100 people have signed a petition opposing the project and asking the zoning board to reject the special exception for the tower, along with any future requests for cell towers in residential areas.

“These large cell towers could be obsolete in several years,” argued Robin Warren of Joppa Road, maintaining AT&T has a 3G Microcell option to provide cell coverage to individual homes. “My biggest issue is that we don't need it. I have AT&T and I have never lost a call. There is not a coverage gap.”

According to AT&T's application, the proposed monopole will accommodate the equipment of up to four wireless carriers. AT&T will rent space to other interested carriers at prevailing market rents, says the application written by Grossman, maintaining the tower will not adversely affect existing developed and natural environments around Merrimack.

“I will be looking at the top of that tower every day,” disagreed Michael Thompson of Joppa Road, who was disappointed that the zoning board did not allow public comment on the matter Wednesday night.

Another neighbor, Cindy Kibbe, stressed she is not against cell towers or cell coverage, but believes there are more appropriate places in town for the proposed structure.

khoughton@newstote.com



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