Harvard Gets Smart About Towers

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Verizon Wireless is proposing a 106-foot cell tower on Woodchuck Hill Road in Harvard (MA), reported the Harvard Press. The new tower will replace an existing tower, which will eventually be torn down. The proposed height exceeds the 105-foot maximum size allowed by Harvard’s cell tower bylaw. The tower will require the approval of a variance by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Verizon conducted a balloon test on two different dates in mid-October. The Harvard Press reported that both tests were “marred by strong winds that knocked down the balloons during portions of the test.” The tests did show that the proposed tower would stand taller than an existing structure in the vicinity and would be visible from several locations, including the center of town. 

Although several sites are being considered, Woodchuck Hill Road is the only property where the owner has agreed to lease the land to Verizon. Other property owners have refused or not responded to Verizon’s requests. 

According to Verizon Attorney Chris Swiniarski, “courts will generally support an improvement in the level of cell service regardless of the current level, but may allow a town to choose a site other than one recommended by the company if the coverage is similar.” 

In a recent meeting, the Select Board discussed placing the tower on town-owned land. Board member Kara Minar said this agreement would yield $50,000 – $60,000 per year in revenue while providing service to underserved areas of town. 

Town Administrator Tim Bragan said he believed that Verizon was committed to the Woodchuck Hill Road site. “The town could put out a request for proposals [RFP] to see if Verizon or some other company were interested” in putting a tower on town-owned land. 

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