The Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) has approved a new cellular tower for Londonderry.
The board at its Wednesday, June 15 meeting heard a request for a variance by CMS Limited Partnership and Varsity Wireless to allow construction of a wireless communication facility in the AR-1 (Agricultural-Residential) zone, where such are prohibited. Proposed is a ground base tower located less than the tower height plus 10 feet from Wiley Hill Road, and less than two times the tower height from abutting residential property lines.
Attorney Francis Parisi presented the plan, and Building Inspector Richard Canuel suggested the board deal with the use variance first, because if the board didn’t find that reasonable, the entire variance failed.
Parisi said the tower would provide needed service in an area of Londonderry that has poor or no communication service. He said the lot in question is vacant and is adjacent to the power line corridor, with two of the four abutters parcels owned by National Grid. which has no objection to the proposed plan. The other two abutting parcels are privately owned residential lots.
Parisi said this lot was the only one available that would meet the requirements and be appropriate for tower construction to address the communication gap that exists in the western part of Londonderry toward Litchfield. He said the restrictions regarding how far a tower has to be from a road or residential lot line are unnecessary because the towers do not collapse, and pointed out that none came down in major hurricane areas such as Katrina.
He also said the cabinet and small shelter base would be surrounded by a chain link fence and because of the thick vegetation on the lot and the placement of the tower, would not be visible from Wiley Hill Road. He also said there are already multiple towers in Londonderry and there have been no complaints.
Canuel told the board that a previous case of a tower being put in a residential area went all the way to the Supreme Court, and the ZBA’s approval of that request was supported by the court. The court ruled, based on federal regulations and mandates, that the property was unique because it met the requirements and met the need for a tower and was the only possible location.
One abutter was present, and when shown where the tower would be located, was satisfied and had no issue with the request.
Smith took the board members through the five variance criteria on the variance request. The five criteria are: the variance will not be contrary to the public interest; owing to special conditions, a literal enforcement of the ordinance will result in unnecessary hardship; the spirit of the ordinance will be observed; substantial justice will be done; and the variance would not diminish the value of surrounding properties.
The board noted the amount of data provided and acknowledged that communication towers powering cell phones are a way of life, with more and more homes depending solely on cell phones for business and personal use.
The board members were satisfied the tower was needed, that it would provide needed service and could not be seen, and would not have any impact on property values. The board said the location provides the necessary coverage to address the communication service gap and no alternative site was available, with the proposed use of the lot reasonable.
The board voted 4-0 to approve the request, subject to restrictions to make sure the ground structure is fenced to an 8-foot height and that the ZBA approval is subject to the owner’s getting approval of the site plan from the Planning Board.