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My Turn: Hopkinton is not a cell phone tower farm

The New Hampshire Advantage is its natural beauty and respite from the entanglements of urban life. Why would we want to damage the greatest of our assets? But that is what is being proposed for Hopkinton. A town already served by six cell phone service transmitters is being asked to allow the construction of yet another – on town-owned property, no less.

What could possibly justify such a project? AT&T, the sponsor of the project, says that a one-mile stretch on Interstate 89 is without AT&T service and other areas need improvement. I suppose that we now live in a world in which not a single inch of territory or a single person can be without wireless service. But there has to be some balance in the competing interests of the people who live in the community if we want survive as a community and not just a collection of individuals each looking out for nothing more than their short-term interests.

This particular proposed project would be built on land designated as town forest, recreation area and aquifer. It is a pristine and valuable wildlife habitat abutting a road zoned as a scenic road in a neighborhood zoned as rural residential.

The surrounding area is home to six of the town’s 30 historical markers. The proposed tower would be at least 20 feet (two stories) above the tree line and would require a compound at its base to house a generator and air conditioning equipment. A 12-foot-wide road at least 150 feet in length as well as power lines will be required to support the facility.

Every property owner in the area with a suitable site has refused to sell the rights for the construction and operation of a cell tower despite attractive offers. Residents of the area are nearly unanimous in their opposition, in part because there is an existing tower one mile away visible to all. Further, there is concern that the town may be willing to allow the project in order to raise an estimated $15,000 plus the taxes on the equipment installed in each year. The estimated loss of property values and hence loss of tax revenues resulting from the project offset, if not exceed, the projected gains. Finally, there are questions about the ability of the proposed tower to accomplish the purpose offered for it.

Zoning requirements for the town will expose the project to important limitations and conditions. Those requirements are aimed at striking the balance between the community interest in aesthetics, environmentally sensitive areas, conservation lands and historically significant locations, on the one hand, and commercial services on the other.

The selectmen will hold a hearing on March 25 at 5:30 p.m. to consider the proposal and apply those zoning laws. If we want a genuine community we need to attend and express our opinions or make our feelings known by writing the town administrator.

(Richard A. Hesse lives in Hopkinton.)

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