Gilford planners OK siting of cell tower off Start Street; ZBA next up

GILFORD — After nine months of planning, three separate balloon tests, and two public hearings, the Planning Board has accepted a site plan for a 150-foot monopole cell tower on the property of the Traditional Catholics of New Hampshire, about 500-feet off Stark Street.

The proposal comes from New Cingular Wireless, PCS, doing business as AT&T and will be built by construction manager American Tower Corporation, LLC. Representatives said Monday that the additional tower will fill in the gaps of coverage along Lake Shore Road and parts of Laconia, including some dead spots along the Laconia Bypass.

Company representative Will Dodge said the new site will host a 150-foot monopole with 12 antennas. He said the company is "adamant" that the pole in the new location cannot be shorter. The said the tree canopy averages 100 feet in the area but there are no steep slopes.

He said there would be an 8-foot fence around the property and the company is not proposing any landscaping because there is a 100-foot buffer.

He also said it was too far the Laconia Municipal Airport to be a hazzard and the FAA said it doesn't need a light. However, Dodge said they would put a shielded intermittent flashing red light on it.

The new site is just to the west of the Public Service of New Hampshire power-line corridor. He said the closest residence in on the east side and is 550 feet away.

The cell tower approved by the Planning Board will be most visible from the Morningside Drive, Edgewater Street, Elm Street and Paugus Street area in Laconia in Ward 1 and the Lake Shore Road commercial district in Laconia.

Selectman Representative John O'Brien asked why they weren't proposing one of the tall, tree-like poles but most, including Dodge, said it would look "awful" in this location.

The company initially proposed a 100-foot monopole off nearby David Lewis Road but the request was met by opposition from neighbors who said it was too close to their homes and would devalue their property.

The request must now go to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a special exception and is scheduled for July 29 at 7 p.m.