Monday December 24, 2012

NEWFANE -- As it turns out, Selectboard members won’t be relying on an independent expert for guidance on a controversial tower proposal.

The board had pledged to take a stance on AT&T’s proposed cell tower in South Newfane only after a review had been performed by an independent consultant as part of the state Public Service Board’s permitting process.

But Selectboard Chairman Jon Mack said he has learned that the state’s consultant won’t be examining any alternate sites for the tower.

"When they have a consultant, it’s simply to look at the site that’s been selected (by AT&T)," Mack told fellow board members Thursday. "That report wouldn’t necessarily be of much use to us."

The 130-foot tower’s proposed location has been the key concern aired by some residents, who worry that the structure would be built too close to a cluster of homes.

But AT&T is moving ahead with an application for a certificate of public good from the state. The company ruled out alternate sites that had been proposed by residents, saying none of them would provide adequate coverage in the Dover Road corridor.

Though AT&T is not applying for a town permit, the company has asked the Selectboard for its support.

The board has not yet taken a public position on the matter. Earlier this month, members voted to do so after an evaluation by the state’s independent consultant.


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After conversations with state officials, though, Mack learned that the review wouldn’t be of much help in answering residents’ questions.

"The type of assessment they do is not what we have been asking for," Mack said.

Furthermore, Mack said the consultant’s report -- even if it proves helpful to town officials in some way -- may come too late to allow the Selectboard time to get its comments to the Public Service Board.

Mack raised the possibility that the town could hire its own consultant to examine AT&T’s plans and alternate sites. No member of the board backed that idea.

Instead, members simply voted to draft a letter detailing the board’s position on the tower. Review and acceptance of that letter is expected to happen at the Selectboard’s next regular meeting on Jan. 3.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.