AT&T moves forward with Shag Bark Hill cell tower plan


PUTNEY -- AT&T has filed its petition with the Public Service Board for a controversial cell tower the company wants to build on Shag Bark Hill in Putney.

But the application was filed without the support of the Putney Selectboard, which elected instead to neither support, nor reject the company's proposal. In a letter to the Public Service Board, the Selectboard said the board could not reach consensus one way or the other.

"After hearing from the landowner, abutters, and other Putney residents, we were unable to come to a clear decision on whether we should approve, or disapprove of this project," the Selectboard wrote to the Public Service Board.

But the board did weigh in on the Public Service Board's 248(a) application process, which puts all of the authority in making a decision on a cell tower application with the PSB.

The Putney Selectboard said that while they supported the right of landowners to decide what to do with their own properties, the hearing process on telecommunication facilities, "Allows for democratic discussion but the final decision is not a result of that discussion and local citizens, who include members of the Selectboard, feel deeply disempowered."

"It is the opinion of the board that the process under Act 248(a) that allows the public to comment, but denies local control of cell tower placement, is ineffective," the Selectboard wrote.

The Putney Planning Commission told the PSB that it opposed the project because the tower would stick too far above the tree canopy, violating the town's Wireless Telecommunications Facilities Bylaw.

AT&T hosted three public meetings about the tower, which is proposed for a rural residential neighborhood, and there was widespread opposition to the plan from property owners who live near the site, as well as from Putney residents who do not live nearby. The company did make some adjustments from the original plan, including setting the tower farther back from the property line, locating a generator inside a building, and retaining some of the trees between the tower and neighbors. The tower is now proposed to be built about 87 feet away from the nearest property line, and is located behind a 200-foot tree buffer. AT&T also reduced the height of the tower from 140 feet to 105 feet.

Most of the neighbors were still opposed to the plan, but the company on Wednesday filed its petition for a Certificate Public Good with the Public Service Board, which will now decide on whether the tower will be erected on the hillside behind the Putney Food Co-op, off of Old Route 5.

AT&T wants to build a 105-foot monopine tower on a 20-acre parcel owned by Michael Mecheski. The tower will include 12 panel antennas, with 18 remote radio units, four surge arrestors, and six A2 modules in the area of the panel arrays. The company is also asking for the authority to build a 50-foot-by-50-foot compound, ringed by a an eight-foot chainlink fence with two strands of barbed wire and accessed by a 12-foot wide swing gate.

According to the company's application, AT&T also intends to construct a a 12-foot wide gravel road that will extend about 1,000 feet from the existing driveway. The project will require new utility poles on about 400 feet of the existing driveway, as well as along the access road. The compound will include an 11.5-by-24-foot equipment shed and a separate room for a 50-kilowatt generator.

AT&T says the tower will be built to accommodate equipment for at least three additional carriers.

The company's filing Wednesday opens a 21-day comment period during which the PSB will accept input on the petition.

A decision on the cell tower can come any time after the 21-day comment period.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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