PSB OKs Shag Bark Hill cell tower in Putney
PUTNEY -- The Public Service Board has approved a plan for AT&T to install a 105-foot cell tower on Shag Bark Hill, a high and steep hill that is behind the Putney Co-op off of Old Route 5.
The controversial tower met stiff opposition from the neighbors and from Putney residents at a series of public meetings earlier this year.
The Planning Commission opposed the project and the Selectboard was not able to come to a clear decision, choosing to neither support nor oppose the cell tower.
But the PSB Wednesday issued the project a certificate of public good, allowing AT&T to move ahead with its plan.
"We are thrilled that the tower has been approved," said AT&T Spokesman Will Keyser. "We are looking forward to moving ahead with construction as soon as we can."
Keyser said he was not sure if construction would start this year or if the company would have to wait until the spring to begin work on the land, which is owned by Michael Mecheski.
He said once work starts it will probably take between six to eight months before the tower is in service.
Representatives from AT&T attended at least three meetings in the spring and along with proposing a shorter tower the company also agreed to leave some trees between the tower and the neighbors and locate the tower farther away from the nearby property line, as well as to install the generator inside the building.
The tower will be located about 87 feet from the nearest property line and a 200-foot tree buffer will remain between the tower and the neighbors.
Still the project never received the support of the abutters who argued that the tower and compound would severely change the rural character of the neighborhood.
"We try and work with the community and address as many concerns as possible when siting a tower, but we accept the fact that sometimes we are unable to make everyone happy," Keyser said. "We made a number of adjustments based on the feedback we received from the community and we hope these adjustments were significant improvements and demonstrated a desire to work in good faith with the community."
Along with the 105-foot monopine tower, which AT&T agreed to shorten from its original plan of 140 feet, the project includes a new access road and an 11-by-24-foot equipment shelter with a backup generator.
AT&T filed its petition with the PSB on April 16.
On May 6 Angela Battisto and Holly Hammond, who live near the site, filed a motion to intervene.
Battisto and Hammond argued that the project would have aesthetic and environmental impacts and also stressed that the tower abuts a wildlife preserve.
But the board found that the couple did not adequately show that the project would have an adverse impact on any of the applicable criteria and the board rejected their motion.
"The neighbors have expressed generalized concerns regarding the project, however they have not demonstrated a substantial interest that might be adversely affected in this proceeding, they have not demonstrated that these interests will not be adequately protected by existing parties and they have not demonstrated that there are no alternative means to protect those interests," the board wrote in its final order.
Battisto and Hammond could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The company was seeking permission to do construction work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., seven days a week, but the PSB is only allowing crews to work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays and between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturdays, while prohibiting work on Sundays and on federal holidays.
The PSB controlled the construction activities because, "given the proximity of residential properties in the area surrounding the project, the construction hours should be limited on weekends and holidays in order to limit adverse impacts from construction noise on nearby residences," the board wrote in the ruling.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. Follow him on Twitter.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.