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Hanover to Hear Cell Tower Appeal

Hanover — The zoning board tonight will hold a public hearing on an appeal from AT&T after the panel turned down the cellular phone company’s earlier request to build a new communications tower overlooking downtown Hanover.

The request for a tower off Three Mile Road, on Moose Mountain, is part of continuing efforts by phone companies to upgrade high-speed wireless coverage to the college town.

AT&T wants to build a 150-foot tower less than a mile from an existing 395-foot tower owned by New Hampshire Public Television and located atop Moose Mountain. The taller tower was built in the 1960s and will soon reach the end of its lifetime, Town Manager Julia Griffin said.

AT&T had already ruled out the possibility of adding equipment to the older tower, and instead is asking the Hanover Zoning Board of Adjustment for permission to build its own, provided it doesn’t reach an agreement with NHPTV on rebuilding its aging facilities.

This is the latest stage in at least a year’s worth of debate involving AT&T, NHPTV and the town on replacing the tower and expanding wireless coverage in the area.

In April, the zoning board denied a proposal from AT&T to build the same structure. The zoning board has expressed concerns that a new tower would obscure local residents’ views of the mountain and change the character of the area, which includes sections of the Appalachian Trail.

The tower would be sited on land owned by Kay and Peter Shumway. Peter Shumway said that AT&T first approached him about a year ago, offering a five-year lease on his land. He preferred not to say how much he stood to make, because the plans weren’t yet definite.

His neighbor, Allen Koop, of 37 Three Mile Road, has submitted a statement that called Moose Mountain “the single most prominent natural feature in Hanover” and argued that “a second tower would detract more than twice as much” from the view.

AT&T already has a second tower on Moose Mountain, a temporary 120-foot-tall cellular-on-wheels tower, or COW, that sits next to the old tower and functions as a stopgap pending a permanent solution.

At the public hearing, which starts at 7 p.m. in Town Hall, AT&T will seek to renew approval of the COW for the coming year. Koop was also concerned that allowing a new tower would set a negative precedent.

“Granting the request for a second tower could lead to additional requests, leading to a cluster of unsightly towers,” he said in the statement.

In the proposal it submitted to the board last month, AT&T said that its plans allowed for other providers to add antenna arrays to the tower and thereby avoid building more structures.

In the meantime, consumers are clamoring for high-speed wireless coverage — access to 4G, in particular, which the temporary tower can’t provide.

“We hear fairly regularly from residents all over town two things: one, ‘Cellphone service is spotty,’ and two, ‘When are we going to get high-speed Internet that’s better than Comcast?’ ” Griffin said.

Griffin said her impression is that, compared to Lebanon and Hartford, Hanover’s service was falling behind, in part because of the town’s challenging topography.

After the public hearing tonight, the zoning board is expected to deliberate a week later on whether to allow the telecommunications company to build a new structure if its negotiations with NHPTV fail.

Although talks have dragged on for years, AT&T spokesman Will Keyser said on Wednesday that the company hoped to conclude discussion soon, provided all parties acted in good faith.

“We do feel like we’re close,” Keyser said.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.