BRATTLEBORO >> Over the objections of the town, the Vermont Public Service Board approved the construction of a mobile phone tower at 1227 Putney Road.
The tower is meant to replace a cellular tower on wheels that has been located on the property of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, near the Book Press. The new tower will be erected on property owned by Achille Agway.
A certificate of public good was issued to New Cingular Wireless (doing business as AT&T Mobility) and Blue Sky Towers, as the Public Service Board concluded the project "will promote the general good of the state ..."
AT&T and Blue Sky applied for the CPG on Aug. 14. On Sept. 1, the town of Brattleboro filed a letter stating opposition to the project on aesthetic grounds and requesting that the project be moved to an unspecified alternate location or that the height of the tower be reduced.
However, on Sept. 3, the Vermont Department of Public Service filed a letter with the PSB stating that the project does not raise any significant issues. In addition, the Windham Regional Planning Commission filed a letter expressing support for the project.
AT&T's application was filed under Section 248a, which expedites the approval of facilities that benefit the common good, including "a new telecommunications facility ... that does not exceed 140 feet in height."
Rod Francis, Brattleboro's planning services director, said the town will most likely not contest the PSB's decision.
"Under section 248a, there is basically no recourse," he said. However, the town could redraft portions of the Town Plan to make clearer its aesthetic standards. But without a rewriting of section 248a by the Legislature, said Francis, it's unlikely even a refined town plan would make much difference.
Brattleboro argued "that the top of the tower, including the multiplicity of antennas and devices to be located on the installation, will be visible and appear substantially out of context from several locations in Brattleboro that have identified scenic value, including the Connecticut River itself ..."
The town asked that the tower be reduced in height to 100 feet. AT&T and Blue Sky agreed to lower the height of the tower from 140 feet to 120 feet in recognition of the town's concerns, but they contended lowering the tower height to 100 feet "would frustrate the coverage goal of the Project to provide reliable service along I-91 south of Exit 2 in Brattleboro."
Because the state's interests in "the availability of modern mobile wireless telecommunications services along the State's travel corridors and in the State's communities" are significant, noted the PSB, the project should go forward at a height of 120 feet.
"(W)hile the Project will be visible from some surrounding areas, it will not have an undue adverse effect on the aesthetics of the area," noted the PSB. "Additionally, the Town has not explained how the Project runs afoul of the section of the Town Plan cited in support of its position."
The tower, which will be built in a commercial/industrial area, will support 12 antennas, each measuring approximately 92 inches by 15 inches, and both the tower and the antennas will be painted a dark brown color. The project will also include an equipment shelter, a backup generator, overhead utility lines, and ancillary equipment. The equipment will be located within a gravel compound surrounded by a six-foot-high chain-link fence.
"The Project will not appear shocking or offensive to the average viewer. The Project does not violate any written community standards intended to regulate aesthetic effects in the area," noted the Public Service Board.