Town of Wilton, NH

Zoning Board Minutes

July 13, 2010

Board MembersVice Chairperson Carol Roberts; members Andy Hoar, Carol Roberts, Jim Tuttle, Joe Poisson, Alternates Joanna Eckstrom, John Jowders, and Eric Fowler.
Agenda6/08/10 - 4 Marois Joint Revocable Trust

Ms Roberts opened the meeting explaining that she is the acting Chair for the evening and reviewed the procedure that would be followed for the meeting.

The Board reviewed the minutes of June 8, 2010.

A MOTION was made by Ms. Roberts and SECONDED by Mr. Hoar to approve the minutes of June 8, 2010 as amended.

Voting: 4 ayes; motion carried with Mr. Hoar abstaining.

Mr. Hoar stepped off the Board as a voting member. Chairperson Roberts appointed Joanna Eckstrom to the Board in Neil Faiman's place and John Jowders to the Board in Mr. Hoar's place.

Case #6/8/10–4 — Marois Joint Revocable Trust

Ms. Roberts explained The Marois Joint Revocable Trust and Florida Tower Partners have applied for a variance to section 15.3.4 of the Wilton Zoning Ordinance, to permit the erection of a 114 foot monopine cell tower on Lot B-39-3, 303 Curtis Farm Road.

John Spring appeared before the Board for the applicant and explained that the applicant initially requested a variance to go 30' feet above the permitted height, not 11' as was stated in the public notice, and he explained that the permitted height is 20' above the tree height. He also explained that the ordinance requires that they measure every tree, however, due to their error, they did not measure trees under 40' high and rather than measure all the trees from that are 20' to 40' high they have submitted a second variance request.

Mr. Spring explained that the proposed location is on the property owned by the Marois Trust at 303 Curtis Farm Road, Lot B-39-3, which is a 12 acre parcel of land in the Residential/ Agricultural District. He stated that the compound is towards the rear of the lot and that the cell tower is a permitted use so a special exception is not required. He further noted that AT&T is a federally licensed mobile carrier and is looking to bridge their coverage. He stated that they are leasing a 100' x 100' section within which will be a fenced compound that will house the equipment and tower. He stated that the applicant is proposing a 114' monopine, or fake tree, with antenna arrays at the top of the monopine. He explained that the fake tree extends above 114' and that the monopine is designed to co-locate a total of 4 antennas which will be AT&T at the 110' level, and others at 100', 90', and 80'. He stated that there will be cables that run the length of the pole and will come out of the base and then connect to a 10' by 20' shelter. He noted that some carriers just use an equipment cabinet but AT&T uses a shelter. He stated that the only utilities will be electric coming in from Curtis Farm Road and the facility will not be lit. He further noted that they have received a letter from the FAA confirming that the pole would not need to be lit. He stated that the only traffic generated after construction would be one or two trips per month per carrier, or four to eight trips per month, by a technician in a passenger vehicle and the access drive is 12' wide. Mr. Springer explained that the ordinance requires the applicant to use the average tree height as the measuring stick for the height of the tower, which is a common provision, but the antennas use line of sight technology so they have to get above the trees and the average tree height does not represent the actually canopy height. He explained that using the trees which are 40' and over the average tree height is 60' then, per the ordinance, you add 20' and the allowable height is 80', but that does not get the antennas over the 90' trees.

In response to a question from Mr. Fowler, Mr. Springer stated that the 80' antennae will not get good reception but the ordinance says that they must build a tower that will allow for co-location.

Mr. Springer stated that there are 55 trees that are 85' or higher and he reviewed a map to the Board with the trees marked.

In response to a question from Mr. Poisson, Mr. Springer stated that once the tower is up they are not allowed to cut any trees. He further noted that everyone wants to screen the tower which is best done in a good stand of trees but then the trees get in the way. He explained that the ordinance says that the applicant must measure every tree 20' and above, which they did not and so they are asking for a variance; they will do it if necessary but it will only depress the tree height even more and it will not change how high they need to make the tower.

Mr. Randy House, the applicants' Radio Frequency Engineer, explained that under perfect conditions in New Hampshire the frequencies carry two to three miles in every direction and that they are limited by the propagation capabilities of the 1900 MHz band width. He explained that 1900 MHz propagates less than some lower band widths and will be blocked by hills and trees. He also noted that the other limiting factor is one's handset. He explained that carriers need seamless coverage and that the radio frequency footprint of any tower resembles a honey comb so the carrier looks at surrounding sites and gaps in coverage and locate a cell so that the coverage just overlaps the coverage of another cell. He stated that there is a challenging topography in this part of the state and therefore they need a lot of towers. Mr. House then reviewed the Radio Frequency report including coverage maps showing the existing coverage and what they expected to get from this site. The Board and Mr. House then entered into a discussion as to how wave lengths work.

In response to a question from Mr. Desmaris, Mr. House stated that the strongest signal will drop on Carnival Hill and Mr. Springer noted that the strength is 1/10 of 1% of the allowable strength amount.

In response to a question from Mike Campbell, Mr. Springer stated that he has zoned and leased antennas on hospitals and schools and they are safe.

In response to a question from Mr. Desmaris, Mr. Springer explained that he did not want to make submissions in dribs and drabs but rather wanted to put it all in one packet.

Mr. Hoar noted that due to a Congress ruling the public can not complain about is signal strength and the potential damage.

Mr. Springer reviewed the balloon test report noting that the test was held on June 18th and the report talks about the type of camera used and how the test was set up. He explained that they take pictures of where they can see the balloon and then Photoshop the proposed monopine into the picture. He noted that there is a photographic log showing where the balloon was visible and where it was not. He explained that they do not go on private property during the test and it is not possible to cover every inch of town but the balloon test was well attended and there were four areas where the balloon was visible. The Board and Mr. Springer reviewed the pictures.

Marilyn Shelly, an abutter, noted that it was very windy that day and the balloon was popping up and down. She also questioned what the tower will look like without all the leaves on the trees.

Mr. Campbell questioned why he saw two balloons.

Mr. Black explained that there was a request to fly a balloon at the allowed height and that the second balloon was important to the Board, and perhaps the public, because with both balloons one could see the difference in heights.

In response to a comment by Mr. Desmaris, Mr. Marrow, land lord, stated that the balloons were up at 7:30 am.

In response to a question from Mr. Priest, Mr. House explained that 1900 MHz is the only frequency that is available to AT&T and if a different carrier occupied the tower it could be different for them and there will only be land lines from this tower.

After checking with a person who administered the balloon test, Mr. House explained that two balloons were floated at 114' and 86', they were up at 7:00 am, and there were no significant winds until 11 am.

Mr. Springer reviewed the Real Estate Appraisal Report and explained that it goes towards the variance criteria about the diminishing of property value and explains that the proposed tower will have no affect on the property value of the surrounding properties.

In response to a question from Mr. Eckstrom, Mr. Springer stated that the tower is approximately 350' to 400' from the house.

Mr. Marois explained that he expects to see the tower if he looks up at a steep angle through the trees.

Mr. Black stated that special consideration should be paid to 309 Curtis Farm Road as it has an easement on it. He questioned whether the easement is able to be used for commercial use and noted that the value of an easement changes the property value of the property providing the easement.

Mr. Springer reviewed a Wetlands Report noting that there is no impact and no state or town permits are necessary as they will not be within 50' of the wetlands.

In response to a question from a Wilton Conservation Commission member, Mr. Springer stated that the building will not be heated.

In response to a question from an abutter, Mr. Springer explained that there will be an emergency generator that will be powered by diesel fuel so there would have to be diesel delivery.

In response to a concern raised by the Conservation Commission member regarding a diesel spill, an applicant representative explained that the unit is completely contained in and of itself.

In response to a question from Mr. Desmaris, Mr. Springer explained that they will not plow the road but they will be able to get to the compound by snow mobile or foot in the snow cover.

Mr. Jowders noted that the spill question will come before the Planning Board.

After discussion, the Board agreed that they will be continuing the case in order to review the materials that they were given this evening.

In response to a question from Stephanie Ouellette, of Curtis Farm Road, Mr. Springer explained that the structural life of a tower is 50 plus years and noted that they are required to remove the tower if it is no longer in use.

In response to a question from Mr. Black regarding the required survey of existing structures, Mr. Springer stated that it is in the Radio Frequency Report.

In response to a question from Ms. Eckstrom, Mr. Springer stated that page Z-2 does contain an error as only three carriers will be able to collocate on the tower.

A MOTION was made by Mr. Poisson and SECONDED by Mr. Tuttle to close the public hearing.

Voting: 5 ayes; motion carried unanimously.

Ms. Roberts explained that if the Board continues the application the applicant would need to waive their right to be granted a decision in 65 days or less.

Mr. Fowler noted the case of Daniels v Londonderry and explained that the overriding issue seems to revolve around filling a significant gap and part of hardship was based on the suitability of the land. Mr. Fowler also noted the requirement that the Board notify any towns where the tower may be visible such as Milford and Lyndeborough.

A MOTION was made by Ms. Eckstrom and Mr. Tuttle to enter back into the public hearing for 30 minutes.

Voting: 5 ayes; motion carried unanimously.

John Shepardson, of the Planning Board, stated that many of these issues, including the easements and fuel spills, are Planning Board issues.

In response to a question from Mr. Desmaris, Mr. Springer explained that the tower is 114' and the camouflage is another 2' to 4' higher.

Mr. Priest explained that he finds fault with the coverage map presented by the applicant as he does not think that the tower will be able to radiate as it has been presented. He submitted his own topographical maps to the Board with vectors of non coverage written in. Mr. Springer agreed that there are areas that will not get coverage even with the new tower, but there are no hills to the South that will block the signal. Ms. Priest noted that the tallest trees all are up the hill to the North.

In response to a question from Mr. Desmaris, Mr. Springer stated that some trees within the compound will be removed and that the tallest tree in the compound is 70'.

In response to a question from Mr. Black, Mr. Fowler stated that Mr. Black's concern has to do with the existence of the tower not the additional height which is what the Board is concerned with. Ms. Black noted that a smaller tower would mean less traffic. Ms. Eckstrom noted that the section 15.0 of the ordinance states that all towers need to have the ability to carry multiple carriers.

An abutter stated that they are concerned that the applicant is not going to measure the 20' to 40' trees because that would affect the average tree canopy height and he does not think that cell towers belong in residential areas at all.

Mr. Black noted that 15.4.6 does not allow the tower to be in an open area where it is visible from a road.

A MOTION was made by Ms. Eckstrom and SECONDED by Mr. Poisson to waive the application fee but not the abutter fee.

Voting: 5 ayes; motion carried unanimously.

A MOTION was made by Mr. Eckstrom and SECONDED by Mr. Tuttle to continue the application till August 10, 2010.

Voting: 5 ayes; motion carried unanimously.

A MOTION was made by Mr. Tuttle and SECONDED by Mr. Poisson to adjourn the meeting.

Voting: 5 ayes; motion carried unanimously.

Chair Roberts declared the meeting adjourned at 10:00 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted,
Heather Loewy Nichols
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Wilton ZBA
Draft Minutes Revision 1