With little fanfare, TowerCo, the company now in charge of building AT&T’s telecommunications tower on a small, leased area of the Town Forest (off Five Corners Road), has been moving ahead.
There have been some changes to the original design. The tower site was moved 150 ft to the north to reduce impacts to a vernal pool and the Life Zone for amphibians in the area around it. The project also underwent a Rare, Threatened and Endangered species review by the VT Agency of Natural Resources. Following the review, ANR required that the Town place a conservation easement on the area of the Town Forest south of the tower before they would remove any objections to the project. Thus 59% of the Town Forest will be conserved. Once AT&T agreed to this, and to paying the expense of setting up the easement, the project was approved by the Public Utilities Commission.
AT&T was granted an easement for a service road to the tower. The road adheres to the route taken by a snowmobile trail much of the way before turning off and passing uphill to the tower site. While the tower base will be at an elevation of 1090 feet for service coverage, Five Corners Road provides much of the elevation gain. The access road itself is sloping but not horrendously steep. Electric utilities are buried beside the road, and there will be one new power pole at the corner of the access road and Five Corners Road.
The other tenant of the Town Forest is the Upper Valley Fish and Game Club, a private organization that maintains a firing range in the northeast section of the parcel. In fact the tower access road crosses part of that section. To accommodate both uses, an agreement has been established in which TowerCo technicians will contact a representative of the Club so that shooting for the duration of a service visit to the tower will be avoided.
A clearing opens up at the tower site, and the newly cleared area looks rather bare at present. The site plan map shows that about ten trees were removed. The bare appearance will change. The compound that will enclose the tower will be 35 ft by 75 ft and, by legal contract with the Town, TowerCo “agrees at its own expense to plant and maintain in good health, dendrologically appropriate plants/shrubbery, in order to create a privacy hedge around the perimeter of the Communication Facility.” In addition, “Tenant agrees that no herbicides, pesticides, fungicides or insecticides, or any similarly composed chemical, shall be used to clear or maintain any area required to be kept clear of vegetation, during the term of this lease.”
As it is, the clearing has released hundreds of pine saplings from the shade of the overstorey. They are now surging upward. The vernal pool is buried somewhere behind the surrounding trees and brush and is guarded by an unseen army of ticks.
The tower will hopefully come online by September. It will fill a cell coverage gap of approximately 2.7 miles of Sawnee Bean Road, 2.2 miles of Blood Brook Road, about 1.6 miles of Barker Road and Five Corners Road, 1.4 miles of Route 113, and to about 1,070 residents in the surrounding area at 700 MHz frequency. It will also be part of the federal emergency response network, FirstNet, for which it was originally conceived.
Photo credit: Li Shen
Diagrams courtesy of AT&T