Marlboro boards reject Verizon cell tower proposal
MARLBORO -- The town is not going to support a proposal by Verizon Wireless to build a new cell tower on a steep slope, above Route 9, off of Augur Hole Road.
Verizon wants to construct a 137-foot monopole telecommunications tower, at about 2,000 feet in elevation, about 1.1 miles from where Augur Hole Road meets Route 9.
Marlboro has been generally receptive to cell tower applications, with the Selectboard and town officials both accepting the fact that the Route 9 corridor is underserved and cell and broadband service across Marlboro is spotty.
But at Thursday night's Selectboard meeting the board signed off on a letter written by Planning Commission Chairman Matthew Tell which asks Verizon to reconsider its planned project.
"They're asking that the Verizon Wireless tower either be located at a different spot or be co-located with another tower, based on a number of things in the town plan and the zoning regulations" Board Chairman Pieter van Loon said at Thursday night's meeting, adding that the plan violates town plan provisions, including those concerning "scenic and historic resources, wildlife corridors, travel corridors, bear habitat, and the development of steep slopes."
The proposed project to construct the tower up a steep slope owned by Timothy and Madonna Racine drew the concern of the Planning Commission from the start because the project will require significant alterations to the landscape, including a new bridge across Bellows Brook.
The company has not yet submitted its petition to the Public Service board, and the town's comments are part of the pre-filing 45-day comment period.
If the company does move ahead with its petition, it will have to get a stream alteration permit from the Agency of Natural Resources and a stream engineer will have to sign off on the work.
Verizon said it plans to install culverts and water bars to minimize disturbance to the existing slope, and checkdams and silt fencing to control erosion during and after construction.
A Verizon spokesman declined to comment on the town's letter because it had not yet been sent to the company.
In Tell's letter, which the Selectboard unanimously approved, the town argues that the tower would be located in unfragmented forest and would negatively affect the viewshed.
Tell argues that slope of the proposed access road would exceed 25 percent, and at times 40 percent, and he said the development would contribute to excessive erosion and stream siltation.
"The proposed location is at odds with a number of provisions and recommendations of our recently adopted town plan," the letter states. "Based on the clear provisions in the Marlboro Town Plan which are designed to guide development and protect the natural resources of the town, the town of Marlboro requests that you reconsider the location of your proposed tower, to consider co-location in order to eliminate the current proposal's negative impact on Marlboro's wildlife habitat, water quality and scenic resources."
The town hosted a public information session about the proposed tower on July 15, and many of Marlboro residents who attended the meeting opposed the plan to build the tower and access road on the steep slope.
At Thursday night's Selectboard meeting, Marlboro resident Michael Boylen said the town should encourage better telecommunications service, but it made sense to consider other impacts projects have on the town resources.
"The town plan makes a very strong statement for development of cell phone and broadband possibilities," Boylen said. "But it's a question of, is this the only way this can be done. There are alternatives and there are other issues, rather than just looking narrowly at whether we can get more broadband or more cell phone coverage."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. Follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.
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