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Hanover Zoning Board Hears Tower Plan

Hanover — Touching off a two-and-a-half-hour discussion during a meeting of the town zoning board on Thursday night, chair Arthur Gardiner reminded representatives from AT&T seeking to build a tower atop Moose Mountain what the town’s priorities are.

“We don’t want a lot of towers up there,” Gardiner said, interrupting a presentation given by AT&T attorney William Dodge.

AT&T proposes to build a 150-foot tower less than a mile from an existing 395-foot tower owned by New Hampshire Public Television, which was built in the 1960s and will soon reach the end of its lifespan.

AT&T and the public broadcaster have been in negotiations for at least two years to replace the tower, which up until recently had stalled, forcing the telephone company to seek approval for building a second tower to expand high-speed 4G LTE coverage in Hanover.

In April, the zoning board denied AT&T’s proposal, expressing concerns that a new tower would obscure residents’ views of the mountain and change the character of the area, which includes stretches of the Appalachian Trail.

But at the public hearing on Thursday, representatives with AT&T and NHPTV informed the town that they had come to an agreement only hours earlier on replacing the existing tower.

“So can we go home?” board member Ruth Lappin asked.

Dodge said no: AT&T was still concerned that if New Hampshire Public Television failed to comply with the agreement, the telecommunications company would be forced to spend another six months seeking the board’s approval to build another tower.

As a result, AT&T asked that the town approve its 150-foot tower, with the understanding that the company would not seek to build it unless the broadcaster didn’t follow through.

Neither Dodge nor representatives from New Hampshire Public Television were willing to provide a copy of the agreement because it contained proprietary financial information that they had not had time to redact.

As a result, the board was presented with a number of difficulties.

First, the board had to make sure that the two organizations would hold to an agreement whose terms the zoning officials didn’t know; second, it had to balance requirements of federal law that local government not interfere with wireless companies providing coverage to their customers with the town’s desire to preserve one of its most notable natural features.

The property that AT&T proposes to use for its tower is owned by Peter and Kay Shumway. Several Hanover residents and abutters of the property spoke in opposition to the company’s plan.

Rhonda Sheffield, who lives down the road from the proposed site, suggested that AT&T was using the board to gain leverage over its competitors.

“The competition of companies — I don’t care for it,” she said.

Before it makes its decision in a deliberative session next week, the zoning board asked representatives of the companies to provide some written documentation of the agreement.

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