Court upholds Bow Planning Board’s decision to approve 190-feet cell tower

Cell tower.

Cell tower. Courtesy

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 02-22-2024 5:36 PM

Depending on their vantage point, Bow residents will soon see a 190-foot cell tower in town, following a court ruling that upheld the planning board’s decision to waive local ordinances for its construction.

After Kristina and Rob Parisien appealed the planning board’s decision to waive height limitations for erecting a cell tower near their home, among other things, a Merrimack County Superior Court judge affirmed the town’s decision, clearing the way for Rising Tide Towers to proceed with the project.

The proposed cell tower will be just 300 feet from the Parisien’s property line on Branch Londonderry Turnpike East.

“This came as a huge disappointment. Now that the judgment is made, we would like to move on and accept it as it is,” the Parisiens said in an emailed statement.

The court’s ruling comes just after the select board allocated a $6,000 budget to contract with Isotrope, a Massachusetts-based wireless communication company to map out dead spots and develop a plan to provide better cell coverage to the residents.

Initially, the town’s telecommunications committee said they would ask Isotrope to develop two plans – one incorporating the proposed tower and the other excluding it. However, in light of the court ruling, only one plan will proceed, integrating the tower into the network.

Discussion on constructing cell towers in Bow is not new to the town. Residents have complained for years about poor cell service and dead spots across towns. Even schools in Bow struggle with cell coverage, posing potential safety risks, parents said.

To alleviate the problem, a warrant article was approved in 2022 allowing 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. This land is the 62-acre town-owned land bordered by properties on Crockett, Laurel, and Sharon Drives, and Branch Londonderry Turnpike East.

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The Parisiens lawsuit was mainly based on ensuring compliance with town ordinances throughout the process, including height limitations.

According to zoning ordinances, personal wireless service facilities should not exceed 90 feet in height and should not rise more than 20 feet above the tree canopy. Despite these regulations, the planning board approved the 190-foot tower by waiving these ordinances.

In the court’s ruling, it was noted that the planning board has evidence supporting the placement of the tower at that specific location and that ‘the requested tower height would reduce the need for other towers,’ thereby facilitating more efficient cell service provision.”

“We were never against the cell tower, only the way it was forced upon our community without any attempt to hear our concerns about the height, appearance, and placement so close to residential homes,” said the Parisiens.