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Richmond residents fight cell towers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Richmond residents fight cell towers

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RICHMOND, Vt. -

Several cell towers have been proposed for the Town of Richmond. It is a prime location to build towers near Interstate 89 and Route 2.

AT&T has  proposed a 140 foot tall tower on Cochran Road, just a few hundred feet from Ezra Hall's back yard. "You know, first kind of shock just trying to understand what this tower is all about," Hall said.

Neighbors like Hall are not happy about proposed cell towers in their neighborhood. "Residents in this area, and more broadly across town, have expressed concerns -- concerns of property value impacts, concerns of aesthetics, health concerns and the fact this isn't in compliancy of the zoning regulations," Hall said.

AT&T addressed some concerns by saying it would build the tower to look like a pine tree.  In its application, officials said:

"...AT&T has selected a monopine design for the structure in order to minimize impacts on the surrounding areas." The application went on to say that the monopine will be " ..sited on a property with an existing clearing and mowed path for access, which minimizes tree clearing and earth disturbances."

Right now, wireless companies apply directly to the state Public Service Board to build a tower, bypassing local input.  Starting July 1st companies will  have to apply directly to the towns, which can have stricter rules. Richmond Town Manager Geoffrey Urbanik says a proposal for a cell tower is not that newsworthy, but he says Richmond has had four proposals this year alone. He thinks communication companies are rushing to beat the July first rule change.
"One of the selectboard's main concerns was we seem to be getting hit by multiple cell tower applications all at once and there doesn't seem to be a coordinated plan to address real coverage issues, and the selectboard is concerned  that there could be towers that end up being redundant,"  Urbanik said.

But in a letter to the town, AT&T disputes that, saying  "...AT&T's efforts to bring reliable LTE service to Vermont are on par with its efforts in the New England states and nationwide, and independent of any relation to July 1, 2014..."

It's not that residents in town are against cell service. "Oh no, absolutely  not," said tower opponent  Gary Holman. "I use a cell phone. I use it for business, I use it for everything -- stay in touch with my grandchildren all over the world, but just 300 feet from a persons back yard is a little bit strong."

The town may request  a delay on the PSB hearing the applications until it is decided what is in the best interest for the Town of Richmond.   

On Thursday, weather permitting,  AT&T is scheduled to float a balloon 140 feet in the air at the proposed tower site to further study its impact on the landscape.

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