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Visual screening is focus of site plan review of Woodchuck Hill Road cell tower

The Planning Board has begun its site plan review for the cell tower that Verizon plans to construct at 12 Woodchuck Hill Road. Verizon attorney Chris Swiniarski and neighbors Roseanne Saalfield and Greg Romero presented their comments at the board’s Jan. 11 meeting.

Director of Community and Economic Development Chris Ryan said the Planning Board would certainly require Verizon to provide visual screening for the base of the cell tower, and Swiniarski agreed to provide it. Romero seconded the concern for adequate screening, pointing out that while the new tower will be smaller than the tower it will replace, the fenced-in area around the new tower’s base will be larger than the existing one. He also requested that Verizon install sufficient fencing to prevent neighborhood children from reaching the dangerous equipment around the tower. Saalfield wanted the Planning Board to put a plan in place to ensure that Verizon maintains the visual screening and follows through on its commitments. At the suggestion of Planning Board Chair Justin Brown, Romero and Saalfield resolved to email comprehensive lists of concerns to the board for review before the next meeting.

The board also needs to decide the amount of the bond Verizon will post for the removal of the existing tower. Verizon has committed to removing the old tower within six months of constructing the new one, but the company will place some funds in escrow before beginning construction. The town could use these funds to remove the old tower if Verizon fails to meet its commitment; otherwise they will be returned to Verizon. The board decided to ask engineering consultant David Maxson what a reasonable value should be and hopes to set the amount of the bond at the next meeting, based on his recommendation.

The board continued the hearing to its Jan. 25 meeting. It aims to complete the site plan review by the end of its Feb. 22 meeting, and Swiniarski agreed to extend the approval deadline until Feb. 25.

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