Putney rejects AT&T cell tower plan


PUTNEY - The town of Putney is not going to support the proposed plan by AT&T to site a temporary, 85-foot cell tower in the village.

The Selectboard and the Planning Commission met Wednesday night to discuss AT&T's request of the town to support the plan as the company prepares to apply to the Public Service Board for a Certificate of Public Good.

After discussing the proposal for about an hour the Selectboard and Planning Commission both unanimously rejected the proposal and voted to not recommend approval of the project by the Public Service Board.

AT&T says it wants to put up the temporary tower across the street from Basketville along Route 5 for up to 18 months, though the company has not been able to promise that the tower would come down if the permanent location is not found before the end of the time period.

AT&T says it needs the temporary tower because co-location agreements with Verizon are expiring.

The temporary tower will only improve service in the village, and within a distance of about a half mile.

The company says it is trying to secure a site for a permanent tower that could potentially improve service beyond the village.

Putney's zoning ordinance prohibits large, stand-alone towers within the village district.

Under Vermont's Act 248 process the Public Service Board is empowered to approve or reject cell tower applications, though the town's endorsement is considered.

The Putney Selectboard members have been discussing the issue at their past few meetings, and at the last meeting Downs Rachlin Martin attorney Elizabeth Kohler represented AT&T and tried to answer questions from the board and from a group of Putney residents, many of whom were opposed to the project.

At Wednesday night's meeting the Selectboard members said they rejected the proposal because they feel like AT&T did not do enough to try to mitigate the visual impact of the tower.

Planning Commission Chairman Phil Bannister said he visited the site after the last meeting and found at least two locations on the site that would be farther back, but still far enough away from the wetlands that are next to the site.

He said if the tower is located deeper in the site the cement base and equipment would not be visible and the tower might be a little more hidden from some locations in town.

At the last Selectboard meeting Kohler said the company could not put the tower closer to the wetlands because it would need a wetlands permit which would take months to complete.

Bannister disagreed.

"In light of the fact that the proposed tower is a clear violation of Putney's Zoning Ordinance, some effort to mitigate the visual impact seems appropriate," Bannister wrote to the Selectboard in a letter that was released at the meeting. "I believe alternative sites are available on the Basketville property, and though they may increase installation cost, I think AT&T should be required to fully evaluate them and report prior to PSB approval of the Route 5 location."

The Selectboard and Planning Commission members also said they would reject the plan because it would not improve cell service along Interstate 91, and because they were concerned about there being no limit on the length of time it would be in place.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext. 279 or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard @HowardReformer.


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