Five Year Battle For Placement of Verizon Tower Goes to Court

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Verizon Wireless’ team of lawyers sought Judge Jennifer Roberts’ approval to end a long court battle and clear the way for construction of a cell tower in Peabody, reported The Daily Item.  At issue, is the City Council’s unanimous opposition to a proposed tower location and the rejection of an alternate site, which may violate the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. However, the city argued the same law allows communities to reject a specific location if there is an alternative.

 Verizon and the city agreed there’s a service gap in South Peabody, but that’s where the consensus ends, reported the Item.

“It’s been a heavyweight fight of punch and counterpunch that has gone on for half a decade,” said City Solicitor Michael Smerczynski.

The battle began in 2014 when Verizon sought permission to construct a 60-foot tower, which the City Council rejected on grounds that the tower did not belong in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Council argued that it would lower property values and be an eyesore. Subsequently, Verizon filed the first of two lawsuits, reported the Item.

In an effort to reach a compromise, the city and Verizon agreed on a new, public site for an 120-foot tower which was approved by the council in 2014. However, the municipal election the following year changed the membership of the panel and the new board rejected the second location. Verizon then filed its second lawsuit.

The Item reported that Peabody Municipal Light Plant (PMLP) then got involved at the request of the city, and proposed a contract with American Tower Corp. to install a distributed antenna system. While that solution was acceptable to Verizon, the PMLP price tag of $750,000 killed the deal. Verizon noted that federal law limits the cost to lease poles to a $450 application fee and $275 annually in rent.

Still, there’s a chance a deal could be worked out, according to Charles Orphanos, PMLP’s manager.

“We are still negotiating with Verizon. Given the FCC’s one-size-fits-all price policy, we’re trying to work out an agreement on everything else and then negotiate cost,” said Orphanos. “My sense is Verizon will do whatever happens first; our agreement, or a judge’s ruling in their favor.”

Michael Murphy, a Verizon spokesman, said in a statement, the company is continuing to work with interested parties, including the city, to identify a solution to address the service needs of residents. “Our ultimate goal is to bring enhanced wireless service to residents who depend on fast and reliable service today, as well as to stay ahead of their future needs,” he wrote.

A verdict is expected this spring, reported the Item.

March 14, 2019

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