Bow residents sue town over cellphone tower

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 10-31-2023 7:16 PM

A Merrimack County Superior Court judge is considering whether the town of Bow was wrong to allow a massive cell tower on public land over the opposition of residents.

If the cell tower is constructed, it will be located just 300 feet from the property of Kristina and Rob Parisiens, long-time Bow residents on Branch Londonderry Turnpike East who sued the town.

The Parisiens’ lawyer, Megan Carrier argued that the town had disregarded its own ordinances, including height restrictions and camouflage requirements, and insisted that the planning board’s decision to grant waivers should be overturned.

“For its failure to apply its waiver standard constitutes an error of law, the standing alone requires reversal of the board’s decision to grant waivers,” said Carrier.

According to town rules, cell towers must not exceed 90 feet in height from the graded surrounding area and should not rise more than 20 feet above the tree canopy. Additionally, they must be camouflaged to blend in with the surroundings.

However, the proposed cell tower by Rising Tide Towers, LLC, a wireless infrastructure company, would stand at a towering 190 feet in height. The proposal does not include any provisions for camouflage.

The planning board had waived these ordinances to allow the tower’s construction on a 62-acre parcel of town-owned land on Branch Londonderry Turnpike. The land is bordered by properties on Crockett, Laurel, and Sharon Drives, as well as Branch Londonderry Turnpike East.

In Bow, poor cell service has been a longstanding complaint with several dead spots across the town. However, 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, potentially offering better reception for residents.

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Concerns were raised by abutters, such as the Parisiens, regarding the town’s approach to approving the cell tower.

Carrier argued the planning board failed to gather enough information about the proposal. However, the town’s attorney, Eric Maher, disagreed.

Maher pointed out that the application had gone through a technical review, and three evenings of public input, and the town had even hired an engineer to conduct an independent assessment of the application.

“So this was not some process where this was rubber-stamped,” Maher told Judge Brian Tucker. “This was a robust process where members of the public, both for and against this application had full opportunity to present their positions and present their evidence.”

Carrier argued that the cell tower should utilize stealth technology for camouflage to preserve the area’s natural characteristics.

However, Maher countered that using stealth technology would make the tower look like an artificial tree, and the company’s plan was to paint it gray to blend in with the sky.

“Given its height, [camouflaging] would increase the visual impact,” said Maher. “We’ve all seen it going I-89 or I-93. We see these trees and who is that fooling? Absolutely nobody.”

Maher also stated that there is a wealth of evidence supporting the planning board’s decision to waive the restrictions.

Tucker took the matter under advisement and will issue his decision at a later date.