Yellow balloon no cause for celebration for some Gilford residents

GILFORD — A balloon was flying over the homes on David Lewis Road yesterday, but several property owners in the quiet, wooded neighborhood were not celebrating. Flown to mimic the height of a proposed cellular telephone antenna tower, the balloon did nothing to ease the concerns of property owners whose lots are 100 feet from the base of the tower.

New Cingular Wireless PCS, doing business as AT&T, and American Tower Corporation, LLC, the construction manager, have applied to erect the 100-foot monopole tower with 12 antennas on the southeast corner of a 48-acre tract owned by the Traditional Cathloics of New Hampshire, much of which consists of the Bolduc Farm managed by Armand and Ernice Bolduc.

"I'm going to fight this tooth and nail," said Kevin Lacasse, whose home at 38 David Lewis Road sits due east of the proposed site of the tower. Eying the balloon drifting above the tree line, he discounted the test since the breeze kept the balloon from reaching the true height of the tower. "It's right in my backyard," he remarked, "where I can look right at it from my hot tub."

The tower would also overshadow a vacant 5.27-acre parcel where Roger Baron plans to build 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 proposed site of the tower. "We're not going to let this go," Baron said, asking "is the town going to protect the little guy?"
Although the tower would not be as close to the home of Charles and Winifred Hughes at 48 David Lewis Road, the slope of the land would make it very visible from much of their property. Moreover, to reach the tower a 12-foot wide road would be built within a 50-foot right-of-way from David Lewis Road adjacent to their property line. The Hugheses could not be reached, but Lacasse said they share his misgivings about the tower.
Armand Bolduc said that the tower would be shielded from neighboring by trees, noting that if the trees were in leaf the balloon would be less visible. Furthermore, he said that tower will be disguised to mimic a tree.
Peter and Jane Ellis, who recently closed their vineyard and wine shop on David Lewis Road, said that they canvassed the nine homeowners on David Lewis Road and found three, including Lacasse and the Hugheses, who are opposed to the tower and six who are either in favor or disinterested.
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. "They want to put it where it least affects their land and affects everybody else," said Baron, who said they should put in the parking lot of the church on Morrill Street. "No one would complain if they put in in the middle of their property," he said.
Baron said that he has spoken with an appraiser who told him that the proximity of the tower would reduce the value of his property. But, but because he could find no cases of towers being sited so close to residences, there was not sufficient data to quantify the impact. Like Baron, Lacasse believes the tower will diminish the value of the nearby properties, including his own, but has yet to receive a formal appraisal.
The Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment will hold a public hearing on the project, which requires a special exception, on December 16. 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."


CAPTION: The yellow balloon, tethered by 100 feet of string, floated over 48 David Lewis Road yesterday to simulate the height of a cellular telephone antenna tower that AT&T proposes to erect on a corner of the Bolduc Farm near two homes and a building lot, whose owners seek to forestall the project, which they believe will adversely impact their properties.