Bow residents upset about town’s approach to proposed cell tower

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor Staff

Published: 01-18-2023 3:41 PM

Rob and Kristine Parisien have been residents of Bow for 12 years, living in an eco-friendly home on Branch Londonderry Turnpike East with unimpeded views of nature. The Parisiens moved from Portland, Maine to settle down in a small town away from the chaos of the city and urban landscape.

However, a large parcel of land owned by the town next to their property could soon be home to a cell tower rising above the tree line and they aren’t happy about it.

“It’s horrifying to know that there’s going to be a huge cell tower that we can see from every room in our house because it’s right on our south corner of the yard,” said Kristine Parisien. “It is the direct view I will get when I wake up in the morning from my bedroom.”

In Bow, poor cell service has been a complaint for a long time with many dead spots across the town. But a warrant article approved last year allowed the town to lease land for no longer than 30 years to a cell phone carrier to install a cell phone tower, which could offer better reception for residents.

The 62-acre parcel of town-owned land on Branch Londonderry Turnpike, where the cell tower will be built, is bordered by properties on Crockett, Laurel, and Sharon Drives, and Branch Londonderry Turnpike East. Abutters like the Parisiens are concerned over the town’s approach in approving the cell tower.

Rising Tide Towers, LLC, a wireless infrastructure company with facilities in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire proposed to erect a self-supported 190-foot cell tower in the center of the parcel at an informational meeting held in January 2022. But the company later changed its proposal to construct a tower much closer to the residences.

Kristine Parisien said the tower would be less than 300 feet from her property line and it could defeat the purpose of having an environment-friendly home with solar panels. Having a cell tower near a residential community worries her about the health risks associated with it too, despite little evidence showing cell phone towers affect human health.

Residents were also dissatisfied with how the town approached the project. There were no requests for proposals issued in order to solicit bids from other companies. Instead, Rising Tide Towers, LLC, became involved with the town’s proposal to improve cell coverage when David Stack, the town manager, met a representative from the company at an E911 commission meeting.

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Stack said a group of residents spoke with the company and decided to bring it before the Board of Selectmen for approval.

“There was no RFP put out asking for someone to come in and provide a response,” said Stack. “The current company said that they are actually in the business of constructing towers and owning them, as opposed to someone just kind of speculating.”

Aside from the manner in which the company was picked and the tower’s proximity to nearby households, residents are also concerned about the tower’s height.

Personal wireless service facilities must be no taller than 90 feet from the graded surrounding area and no higher than 20 feet over the tree canopy, according to town ordinances. The tower must also be camouflaged to blend in with the surroundings. But, the proposed cell tower stands 190 feet tall. Residents want the town to look into other alternatives, such as several lower-height towers.

Stack said the planning board has flexibility on the cell tower’s height and it doesn’t have to go to the zoning board of adjustment for approval.

Dee Treybig, a Bow resident who has served on multiple town committees and lives far enough away from the tower that she cannot see it from her home, expressed dissatisfaction with the town’s handling of the process to expand cell service coverage. She said that residents had to bear the burden of conducting a balloon test on their own to gauge the tower’s height.

With many dead spots in Bow, this one massive tower cannot resolve the situation, she said. Residents would like to see the town come up with a master plan to evaluate the town’s cell tower needs.

Treybig said that a master plan would help the town address the matter more effectively by strategically situating the towers to improve service.

“I think many towns have a history of doing things where, you know, you just try to fix the problem with a Band Aid and you’re not really addressing the bigger issue,” said Treybig.

The planning board will meet on Thursday to review Rising Tide Towers, LLC’s cell proposal, and abutters are concerned that the town may waive its own ordinances despite their concerns.

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