NEWFANE -- AT&T has gotten the go-ahead to build a second tower in Newfane, a 140-foot-tall monopole designed to improve cellular service in the Route 30 corridor.
The Vermont Public Service Board approved construction of the tower at 85 Browns Road, with officials saying the structure "will not have an undue adverse impact" on the area’s aesthetics or other resources.
AT&T also is putting finishing touches on a cell tower in South Newfane. Company spokesman Will Keyser said he could not yet share a construction schedule for the Browns Road facility.
"Our hope is always that we’ll be able to move the project along as quickly as possible," Keyser said. "This is a priority area that was important to state officials, and we’re certainly excited to get a tower constructed and serving our customers as soon as possible."
AT&T met some resistance in 2012 when proposing the South Newfane tower on Oak Hill Road. Nearby residents protested, and town officials expressed concern that the state’s streamlined permitting process for such structures overrides local concerns and ordinances.
AT&T argued that no other site could serve the Dover Road corridor as well as the 139-foot Oak Hill Road tower would, and the state Public Service Board approved it in March 2013. Keyser said the South Newfane tower is nearly complete.
"We expect that it could be operational sometime in mid-summer," he said.
In contrast to the Oak Hill Road permitting battle, AT&T encountered no formal opposition to the Browns Road project. Will Dodge, a Burlington attorney representing the company, received Newfane Selectboard’s blessing for the project following a brief presentation in January.
Now, the Public Service Board has granted a certificate of public good. According to the board’s ruling, the tower will hold up to 12 antennas.
In January, Dodge said the structure also will have room for antennas from other carriers.
"It won’t be long before Verizon, T-Mobile, VTel and others are going to want to use this site," he told Selectboard members at the time.
State documents say the tower project includes an 11-foot-by-20-foot equipment shelter and a diesel generator on a concrete pad within a fenced gravel compound.
Access to the site will be via a gravel road extending approximately 500 feet from Steep Way Road along an "existing woods road." There also will be underground utilities and a small parking area.
"At the completion of construction, areas cleared of vegetation during construction will be replaced with sod and soil and allowed to return to a natural state," the board’s order says.
Officials also wrote that the tower complex’s visibility "will be limited due to surrounding forested area."
"The project is sited in an area with existing access, thereby minimizing the aesthetic impacts of new road construction," the board’s order says.
"The profile of the monopole tower and the use of matte grey color for the tower will soften the project’s appearance from vantage points where it will be seen," officials added. "The project also does not violate any clear written community standard intended to protect scenic resources. The relatively small project will not appear shocking and offensive to the average viewer."
AT&T’s expansion in Newfane is part of a much larger investment. In January, Dodge said the company had invested about $50 million to improve existing Vermont towers between 2009 and 2011.
Subsequently, AT&T turned its attention to building new facilities. Locally, Dodge said, that has included efforts in Putney, Jamaica, Dover, Westminster, Rockingham and Winhall.
On Monday, Keyser said AT&T "is aggressively engaged in an effort to expand our network not only in Vermont but across the country."
"We have a three-year commitment in the range of $22 billion a year to build out our network across the country," Keyser said. "The goal is to meet what we see as current consumer demand and what we anticipate will be future consumer demand for high-speed wireless service."
Keyser noted that 70 percent of AT&T customers have smart phones, and "more and more people use their mobile device in ways that are much different than just talking on the phone."