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April 5, 2014

Balloon to show height of Wenham cellphone tower

Balloon going up today will show height of proposed cellphone tower

WENHAM — The balloon goes up today in town.

In a test of a proposed 150-foot cellphone tower, AT&T will float a balloon at that height from a crane at 32 Monument St., from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The idea is to comply with the town bylaw regarding cellphone towers, which aims to give everyone an idea of just how obtrusive this one will be.

Some residents are already confident it will be plenty obtrusive.

AT&T is seeking a special permit to construct a 150-foot monopole (a single pole) for use by multiple cellphone companies, said town planner Emilie Cademartori. The pole will extend higher than the surrounding trees, which is why the special permit is necessary. The proposal is to locate it on private land, a 7-acre, wooded site to the rear of Monument Street. A home on the property would be removed.

“I know a lot of people who are very opposed,” says Cademartori, who is neutral on the issue. “And if it’s this horrible-looking thing, I know people will be opposed.”

On the other hand, she added, “There’s quite a bit of Wenham where (cellphone) coverage is awful.” At one point, she said, her own cellphone simply wouldn’t ring if she left it on the left side of her desk. The new pole is aimed at improving coverage in Wenham’s business district.

The decision on the special permit rests with the Planning Board, which will hold a hearing on April 17. But when it comes to cellphone towers, federal laws often override local regulations, and the prejudice is toward encouraging the development of better and better communications.

Abutter Lucy Frederiksen is worried about how the tower will look, but she isn’t going to press the point, fearing the “not in my backyard” approach would be quickly dismissed.

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