GILFORD — Buffeted by high winds, a trial balloon, floated to measure the visual impact of a proposed cellular telephone antenna tower on nearby residences, burst yesterday just hours after the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment, meeting the night before, postponed a public hearing on the controversial project until December.
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 a 148-acre tract owned by the Traditional Catholics of New Hampshire, much of which consists of the Bolduc Farm, managed by Armand and Ernie Bolduc. 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. Both Lacasse and Baron, together with the other eight homeowners on David Lewis Road are opposed to the citing of the tower.
The balloon test was arranged by AT&T and American Tower Corporation in hopes of demonstrating that the tower would not have the impact the neighbors fear. Niam Soule of KMB Design Group arrived at David Lewis Road with two yellow balloons filling the back seat of his car. On the roadway, he measured 100 feet of string and wrapped it around one hand. Carrying the balloon in his other hand, he walked through a wooded area between two houses to the site of the tower. The balloon rose some 20 feet before a gust of wind drove it into a stand of saplings, where it burst.
"That's why I brought two," said Soule as he headed for his car. Returning with his cell phone to his ear but no balloon in his hand he said that he would return Thursday morning.
Lacasse said that although the tract owned by the the Traditional Catholics stretches over 148 acres, the Bolducs chose to site the tower where it would be nearest to neighboring residences. He said that because of the slope of the land, another 72 feet of elevation would be gained by placing the tower closer to the church on Morrill Street. Lacasse and his neighbors claim that by overshadowing their properties, the tower will diminish their value while radio waves emitted by the antennas will pose health risks.
The Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment are scheduled to hold a public hearing on New Cingular Wireless PCS's request for a special exception, without which the project cannot proceed, as well as a site plan for the tower on Monday, December 16 ay 6:30 p.m. .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."