Cell phone tower plan irks Gilford neighbors

GILFORD — A proposal to erect a cellular telephone antenna tower on land owned by the Traditional Catholics of New Hampshire abutting residences on David Lewis Road and Stark Street has aroused opposition from at least two nearby property owners.

New Cingular Wireless PCS, doing business as AT&T, and American Tower Corporation, LLC, the construction manager, have applied to erect a 100-foot monopole tower with 12 antennas on the southeast corner of the 148-acre tract. The site would include an equipment shelter, 12-feet by 20-feet, and emergency generator within a 50-square compound surrounded by chain link fence six-feet high and topped with barbed wire. A driveway leading from the southwest corner of David Lewis Road would provide access to the tower.

The tower would stand 100 feet from the property line of two adjoining lots, one a house lot at 38 David Lewis Road owned by Kevin Lacasse and the other a vacant 5.27-acre parcel reached from Stark Street owned by Roger Baron. It would also be the same distance from residential properties on Stark Street, but because the lots are relatively deep and the homes are on the street, it would be less obtrusive.  

"I'm very opposed to it," Lacasse said flatly. He explained that the driveway will run alongside his yard and the tower will overshadow his property, obstructing its view. He expressed concerns about the health affects of high frequency radio waves. "It will lower the value of our property," he said. "We don't want that monstrosity of a tower in our backyard."

Baron said that he purchased the lot with the intention of eventually building a retirement home. Since the property is intersected by a brook and dotted with wetlands the buildable area is confined to less than two acres in the northwest corner of the lot nearest the site of the proposed tower. The tower, he explained, would be 100 feet from his property line, as close as permitted. "If I built a house, it would be in the tower," he remarked. Like Lacasse, Baron believes the tower would diminish the value of his property.

Both Baron and Lacasse said because the tract owned by the Traditional Catholics stretches over 148 acres, there is no need to place the tower so close to neighboring properties. "If they were putting it in the middle of their lot," Baron said, "we wouldn't be having this conversation. Instead," he continued, "they're putting it in the one place where it impacts the most abutters. I don't really feel that is being a good neighbor."

"With all that land," echoed Lacasse, "the could find a place to put it without affecting their neighbors."

The Planning Board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the site plan for the cellular tower on Monday, October 21 while the very next day the Zoning Board of Adjustment is scheduled to hold a public hearing on New Cingular Wireless PCS's request for a special exception, without which the project cannot proceed.

Baron and Lacasse, who only received notices of the public hearings in the past 10 days, had already arranged to travel out-of-state next week and are both unable to attend either hearing.

Planning Director John Ayer said yesterday that the hearing before the Planning Board will be deferred until November because no representative of New Cingular Wireless PCS attended a preliminary meeting to review the site plan and the firm failed to notify all the required abutters. Dave Andrade, the Code Enforcement Officer who manages the ZBA, could not be reached.

To qualify for a special exception a project must comply with six requirements, among them that it is "not detrimental, injurious or offensive to the neighborhood."