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Raymond Planning Board News


Raymond Planning Board Gives Conditional OK to Route 27 Cell Tower
By Penny Williams  7-6-17

The proposed siting of a cellular tower on Route 27 occupied most of the Raymond Planning Board meeting of July 6, ending in a decision to conditionally approve the site plan and monopole design for the facility.

After reading a letter from Joseph and Christopher Reed granting Varsity Wireless Investors permission to erect a cell tower on the Reed property at 181 Route 27, in the vicinity of Long Hill Road, the board struggled with the Varsity Wireless application presented by attorney Francis Parisi. The application sought site plan review and waiver request approval for a 160-foot monopole cell tower with a 70-foot by 70-foot enclosure.

Variances for the height above trees and distance from property lines had been granted by the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) on May 24, and a rehearing on June 28 granted approval for a Special Exception for the location of the cell tower.

The Planning Board noted that the ZBA had stipulated the Planning Board make the decision regarding "adequate camouflage." The buffer surrounding the tower location would be a "no-cut" zone, Parisi stated, but the Planning Board wanted to make sure it was posted as such on the site plan and on the actual buffer zone. The only disturbance would be an approximately 40-foot area to be cleared for construction of the tower, but much of that land would be allowed to grow back.

The board also discussed how power would be brought to the site. Because of the topography, Parisi said they thought it would be brought in by pole but that decision could not be made until an agreement with the utility supplier was reached, once the site plan was approved. The original request was to bring it in overhead and Parisi said he would ask for a waiver to do that if necessary.

The majority of the discussion among board members and with abutters concerned camouflage for the monopole. The abutters preferred to look at a treepole – a cellular tower that is made to look like a tree - rather than the proposed monopole design. The board struggled with what is meant in terms of "adequate camouflage" and what would be seen by people traveling along Route 27 as well as by the immediate abutters.

Parisi provided photos taken at the time of a balloon demonstration of the proposed tower height. They showed the balloon, then the monopole with no antennas and finally the monopole with four antennas attached. Trees blocked many of the views along Long Hill Road. The board grappled with which design would be less intrusive - the proposed monopole or a treepole.

The Varsity Wireless Investors site plan has not been provided to DuBois & King, so peer review has not been approved, specifically regarding drainage impacts. Parisi indicated there would be no increased drainage, as there would be no increased impervious surfaces, but the plan calls for a different degree of gravel/crushed stone for the driveway and site than DuBois & King thought should be utilized, and that has to be decided. The board would grant only conditional approval until the DuBois & King peer review showed approval of its comments and requirements.

The site plan will go to DuBois & King, and Parisi said he would work out the agreements with them for peer review.

Residents on Long Hill Road noted that travelers along Route 27 would have only a passing view of the cell tower, whereas the residents in the neighborhood would see the tower at eye level daily from their windows, and they preferred the treepole design. It was also pointed out that Long Hill Road is a designated Scenic Road.

The board deliberated on the two outstanding issues - camouflage of the tower and posting the "no cut" zone - with most of the members saying the monopole design and the proposed "no cut" buffer zone provided "adequate camouflage." Only Gretchen Gott had reservations; she said that while she had initially thought the monopole design was less intrusive, she now had serious reservations.

The board worried about meeting the state statute regarding camouflage of cell towers but recognized that it was recommended, not mandated; only the Town's ordinance requiring "adequate camouflage" was at issue.

 In the end, member Jonathan Wood read a detailed motion to approve the site plan that contained all the relevant conditions; the vote was 4-1 to approve, with Gott opposed.

The board then had an in-depth discussion about the length of time to be allowed for the project to be completed. Normally it is six months to the start of the project but Parisi pointed out that Varsity Wireless Investors has to meet a number of federal requirements and that will take up to at least 24 months. The board voted to extend the six-month period to 12 months and allow two extensions, giving Varsity the 24 months it stated would be needed.

The board also debated what fees might be charged going forward in excess of what has already been paid. Parisi said he could not sign off on something when he didn't know what the future cost might be. After a brief discussion the board offered to amend the future fees condition to read "not to exceed $5,000," and Parisi accepted that.

In other business that evening:

• The board took up an application for renewal of an Earth Excavation Permit for Hard Rock Development, LLC. Hard Rock is seeking a five-year permit renewal for the existing excavation operation that is accessed from Industrial Drive.

Arley Green said the company has done a little bit better this year and hoped the board would approve the request for re-permitting the business. There was no public comment and the board deliberated and provided a complex conditional approval for the five-year permit. One of the conditions requires Hard Rock to allow siting of an access road across its property in the event a previously-proposed Town wastewater treatment plant is approved in the area.

Green asked that the board approve allowing in the winter municipal trucks with wings from two towns north of Raymond - Nottingham and Newfields - to access the pit. After a brief discussion, the board amended its approval to allow municipal utility trucks from those two towns to access the pit in emergency situations.

• Little Friends Early Learning Center, 126 Route 27, requested a continuance for a public hearing on its Change of Use application, which was accepted.

• The next Planning Board meeting will be Thursday, July 13.
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