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AT&T Tower Will Piggyback On Moose Mtn.

Hanover — AT&T and the town zoning board have pushed back discussion of building a new 150-foot telecommunications tower on Moose Mountain after the wireless provider struck a deal with New Hampshire Public Television to replace the broadcaster’s existing tower, sited less than a mile away.

The agreement between the public broadcaster and the wireless company marks a breakthrough after more than two years of negotiations in which the service providers have struggled to replace NHPTV’s aging 395-foot tower and expand high-speed wireless coverage to the area.

At a public hearing held by the Hanover Zoning Board of Adjustment last month, representatives of AT&T said they had reached an agreement with NHPTV, but requested a variance to build a second, 150-foot tower anyway, in case the public broadcaster didn’t follow through.

Later, citing the NHPTV deal, AT&T asked the board to delay its decision until December. The board approved the request on August 7.

“We are optimistic and hopeful that (NHPTV) will be able to get its permits and be able to make significant progress by December, and if that indeed is the case, then there’s no reason to go ahead with additional permitting regarding the Shumway tower,” AT&T spokesman Will Keyser said in a phone interview Monday.

AT&T’s alternate 150-foot tower would have been sited on property owned by Peter and Kay Shumway, who stood to collect an undisclosed sum from the telecommunications company for the use of their land.

AT&T first sought to build its own tower last year when talks with NHPTV appeared to be making little progress.

This month, the two companies outlined a plan to rebuild the existing tower by September 2015, or April 2016 at the latest. In an undated letter to the zoning board, the companies said that AT&T will help fund the project, provided that NHPTV adhere to certain deadlines in planning, permitting and construction.

The letter said the companies will build the replacement tower next to the existing New Hampshire Public Television tower and remove the old facility after transferring its components to the new structure.

In a phone interview on Monday, Peter Shumway said he wasn’t disappointed that AT&T was moving in another direction. The telephone company had approached him first, he said, and he had never actively lobbied for a tower on his property.

“I think it’s fine,” he said. “We’d just as soon just have the one tower up there.”

At the zoning board’s public hearing last month, chairman Arthur Gardiner and several members of the public expressed concern that approving AT&T’s request could potentially lead to two unsightly structures, not one.

AT&T attorney William Dodge argued at the meeting that customers expected high-speed 4G LTE service from the company, but Rhonda Sheffield, who lives near the Shumways, disagreed, and said that AT&T’s request “really just reeks of horrible greed,” she said. “I don’t hear anybody crying that they don’t have good services.”

Yet the next day, Etna resident Herb Roland emailed the board to ask it to consider the lack of cellular coverage in his area, as well as his spotty Internet service, “which is quite poor for my needs,” he said.

“Comcast will not provide me with cable,” he added. “They told me it was not in their economic interest.”

While AT&T seeks to expand its high-speed coverage, it has maintained a 120-foot cellular-on-wheels tower, or COW, that sits next to the old tower and functions as a stopgap pending a permanent solution. In addition to its recent decision, the zoning board extended the COW’s permit for another year.

The board also approved a request from Raven Bay Associates to build a 16-space private parking lot at 9 Allen St., as well as an appeal from the Hanover Co-op Food Store that allowed the cooperative to keep its current number of parking spaces.

According to AT&T and NHPTV’s letter to the zoning board, the public broadcaster plans to file its planning and zoning applications for the replacement tower in September.

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