AT&T tower now on high

Little communication on plans for operation

Elodie Reed

By Elodie Reed

Staff Writer

Just
The Facts

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ST. ALBANS TOWN — A 140-foot monopole intended to improve AT&T cellular locally is now up near Interstate 89 Exit 19.

Located behind the Maplefields gas station off of Fairfax Road, the tower, first proposed in October 2013 and approved by the St. Albans Town Selectboard and Planning Commission with certain conditions, was permitted through the Act 248a process for telecom installations.

With statements from both town boards used as support, the Vermont Public Service Board approved the permit application and issued a certificate of public good on Jan. 29, 2014. Construction began last month.

The tower is on land owned by Ingleside Equity Group, a company whose principle partner is St. Albans realtor and developer Sam Smith. American Tower Corporation, of Boston, Mass., is managing the tower, and AT&T will install wireless communications equipment meant to speed up data connections and improve cellular service in the area.

Attempts to learn more about the leasing agreement from American Tower were unsuccessful. AT&T could not be reached by press time Thursday.

Construction began June 9, and should be completed by Aug. 15, according to American Tower spokesperson Matt Peterson. Wireless Construction, of Standish, Maine, has built the 140-foot monopole, which will include 12 panel antennas each of which is about 7 feet tall. They will be installed 136 feet up the pole. A 50-by-50 foot compound will be located around the base of the tower, and there also will be an equipment shed and generator on site.

A 460-foot gravel driveway will lead to the site behind the quick stop.

At the outset of the telecom tower’s proposal, town officials were hesitant to approve the project due to its effect on the scenic vista. The selectboard and the planning commission voted to support the tower with the conditions that AT&T make every effort to co-locate their wireless telecommunications equipment on existing towers in the area, and if that wasn’t possible, to minimize the visual impact the tower would have on the scenic corridor.

According to the Public Service Board’s 2013 permitting process, the project was “of limited size and scope” and therefore it could be approved without a public hearing in St. Albans Town. Recommendations, not required to be addressed, were the only say municipal selectboards and planning commissions had.

Now, thanks to the economic bill passed by Vermont legislators this past spring, the Act 248a permitting process will allow local municipal planning commissions and selectboards, or other legislative bodies, to ask questions, share thoughts and demand responses before telecom installations are decided.

Late last week, the conspicuous tower rose up high above the Maplefields quick stop, but early this week St. Albans Town Clerk Anna Bourdon said she had received no calls regarding it.

Sam Smith said by phone Tuesday that when he had asked others in town whether they had seen the tower, their responses had been, “Where?”

Smith added, “It’s designed to serve the St. Albans area. It shouldn’t be too bad.”