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Bedford forms committee to study cell tower policies

BEDFORD — After several controversial cell tower applications in recent months, town officials are now forming a study committee to address the issue and make policy recommendations.

Last week, the town council voted to create the seven-member committee. Its goal will be to review the placement, usage, affects, zoning and legal requirements of cellular communication towers and emergency communication networks within the town, and to make recommendations on zoning and town policies.

“We are trying to come up with a comprehensive policy that is going to last a number of years for the community, and we can’t run the risk of pitting neighborhood against neighborhood,” said Councilor Bill Duschatko, stressing the need to avoid the ‘not in my backyard’ ideology.

Town Manager Rick Sawyer said the new committee will meet with various officials, including the police chief, planning director, telecommunication providers, experts in the field and local business owners and residents to discuss the need for towers, understand existing tower uses and the impact new towers will have on neighborhoods and the community.

This past spring, town officials considered the construction of three new cell towers in Bedford, and heard opposition from several local residents.

Sawyer said previously that he believes there is a need to improve the town’s emergency communications system, and that partnering with a private cell tower company is a fiscally responsible way to assist with those efforts.

Although the town council voted not to enter into lease negotiations for at least one year with Blue Sky Towers, LLC for a communications tower on town-owned property along Chubbuck Road, the issue may be revisited in 2018.

Earlier this year, Crown Castle Towers withdrew a pending lawsuit against the local zoning board, which claimed the board unlawfully denied its application for a special exception and variance to construct a 190-feet cell tower at 77 Chubbuck Road — just months before Blue Sky Towers submitted its application for the same parcel of property.

Other towers have been proposed on 25 Tirrell Road and 12 Bellemore Drive as well.

The new cell tower study committee includes seven members — Duschatko, Bill Jean, Bill Greiner, Jason Lacroix, Chris Magay, Kim Peicker and Lisa Jacobs.

The committee will have 18 months to familiarize itself with the Telecommunications Act and local zoning related to telecommunications, and make recommended zoning changes or policy considerations.

“This is not going to happen for the 2018 ballot,” Councilor Chris Bandazian told the board, adding any policy or zoning recommendations would likely go before voters in 2019.

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