Town of Sutton


Pillsbury Memorial Hall

93 Main Street

Sutton Mills, NH 03221

Zoning Board of Adjustment

Amended and Approved Minutes of the Regular Meeting

Wednesday December 19, 2018


Board Members Present: Derek Lick, Chair; Betsy Forsham, Vice-Chair; Ed Canane; Samantha Gordon; and Bill Hallahan, Alternate

Board Members Absent: Doug Sweet and Joe Eisenberg, Alternate

Staff Present: Diane Lander, Land Use Coordinator

Others Present: Marc Beauchemin, John W. Jones, and Kathryn Schneider, Sutton Residents; Cameron Hollins, New London Resident; Greg Costello, SAI; Stephen Kelleher, Vertex; Elizabeth Kohler, representing AT&T; Martin Lavin, AT&T; Kevin Mason, SAI; Jesse Moreno, Protera; and Francis Parisi, representing Vertex Tower Assets, LLC.


Regular Meeting Call to Order and Roll Call

Chairman Lick called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.  Attendance was taken.

Chairman Lick designated Alternate Board Member Hallahan to sit for Board Member Sweet.

Public Hearing:  Case # Z-18-04.  Vertex Tower Assets, LLC and New Cingular Wireless PCS LLC d/b/a AT&T Mobility propose to construct a personal wireless facility consisting of a 190’ tall self-support/lattice style tower on which New Cingular Wireless PCS LLC d/b/a AT&T Mobility will attach telecommunications antennas and electronic equipment at a height of 182’ (centerline), inside a 60’ x 60’ fenced in compound which will also contain ground-based telecommunications equipment at the property located at the end of Wrights Hill Road, owned by Norman Karl Brooks, Sutton Tax Map/Lot 02-865-520 in the Rural Agricultural Zone.

The applicants are requesting one (1) special exception and three (3) variances.

  • A Special Exception pursuant to Article XII and Section XII.D.3 for a new Ground-Mounted Personal Wireless Facility;
  • A Variance from Section XII.F.1.b to permit the construction of a 190’ tall facility which will be more than 20 feet above the top height of the main canopy of trees within 200’ of the proposed tower location;
  • A Variance from Section XII.g.8 to permit the construction of a self-support/lattice style structure;
  • A variance from the dimensional requirements of Section V.C.3 to permit the construction of the Facility in the Rural Agricultural Zoning District on a lot having frontage of less than 200 feet on a public or private right-of-way.

Chairman Lick opened the Public Hearing and summarized the process to be followed during the Public Hearing:

Applicants’ Agent summarizes the project;

Board members provide comments and ask questions of the Applicants’ Agent;

Members of the Public direct comments and questions to the Chair of the Board;

The Land Use Coordinator introduces written comments received;

Applicants’ Agent provides responses and final comments;

The Public Hearing is closed;

Board Members deliberate and then vote, needing three (3) votes in favor for each of the Variance Criteria for the Application to be approved; and

There is a 30-day appeal period to reconsider the decision.

Board Member Canane asked if the application fees had been received.  The Land Use Coordinator reported she has received payment for the initial fees and Mr. Parisi will pay additional fees later tonight.

Mr. Parisi introduced the people in attendance who represent the application, provided an overall summary of the project, and then discussed the project in more detail using a slide presentation.  He also provided two (2) additional documents not included in the application: forester tree height report and visibility results analysis.

Chairman Lick stated that the Board is tasked with (a) determining if the coverage gap will be filled and (b) is the proposed site the most reasonable site.

During Mr. Parisi’s presentation, the Board asked questions about the project and how to read in more detail the various maps he displayed.  Key discussion points, summarized and in no particular order, include:

The tower will be part of the First Responder Network Authority (First Net), a public safety broadband network.  AT&T is the private sector network partner, and, as such, is required to go to rural areas and areas not as economically suitable.  This means that AT&T wants to cover as much area as it can and to do so as fast as it can.  This is the driving need for the proposed tower and both its location and height.  The specific coverage objective is portions of the Rte 103/Rte 114 corridor plus a couple of lakes.

There is an existing cell phone signal gap in Sutton, and this tower will cover some of the South Sutton area.  Another tower will be needed someday for North Sutton.

First Net and AT&T transmit in around the 700 MHz range.  Other carriers also transmit at about the same frequency.  1900 MHz is used for capacity/more bandwidth but travels less distance, making it more suitable for urban areas. The higher the frequency, the lower the transmission coverage.  Parisi   also noted that the range of a cell tower is generally only a couple of miles and is site specific with regards to topography and terrain.

Vertex would agree to a condition to not build without a tenant.  AT&T has committed to being on the tower and the tower is expected to eventually be a multi-carrier facility.  The latter is one reason the tower needs to be taller.

The presentation showed only where AT&T is on towers, the AT&T coverage gap, the expected AT&T coverage, etc.  The Telecommunications Act says towns cannot say no to AT&T because there is, for example, Verizon coverage.  All carriers have a right to compete.  So the question is if there is a viable gap in AT&T coverage and is there no other alternative.

Wright’s Hill Road is a Class VI road and the lot has a house on it.  The landowner was approached by Vertex.  The landowner has a prior agreement with the Town, but the Applicants may need a variance if there is not sufficient frontage. Both Chairman Lick and Member Forsham expressed doubts that a variance is needed for frontage in this case because the applicant is not proposing construction of a residence.

The Wright’s Hill Road location is the only available and viable alternative location for this tower.  The tower needs to be on a hill of sufficient height to reach down to Bradford.  The height of the site is 1,175’.  Some of the other locations considered would require two (2) towers to meet the coverage objective.  The Bradford tower near the intersection of Rte 103 and Rte 114 is in a valley and only serves Bradford and south of Rte 103.  Another benefit of this site is that utilities are already available.

A lattice design is the best design for the tower.  Because technology is evolving rapidly and the First Net mandate requires AT&T to put other technology on the tower, the tower needs to have more structural integrity.  A monopole does not have the needed structural integrity, and, as it would be delivered on a flatbed truck, would be difficult to install at the Wright’s Hill Road location.  Lattice towers can be structurally enhanced, more easily built taller than monopoles, and are now even less expensive than steel monopoles.  Pine tree towers are not so attractive.

The tower itself is 190’ tall and then public safety antennas will could be added, giving a total height of 199’.  AT&T has said that a 190’ tower is the minimum to achieve its coverage objective.  Vertex will provide space on the tower free of charge for Sutton public safety.  Sutton will need to pay for (provide) the equipment and installation.  As the tower will be less than 200’ tall, it will not need to be lit.  The visibility results showed that the tower was not visible from most sites and was not highly visible where it could be seen.  The Board thanked Mr. Parisi for voluntarily conducting the visibility test and agreed the graphics show that the tower would not be as intrusive and also helped with thinking about the proposed tower.

One map of particular interest was the map showing coverage as a function of tower height.  Also of particular interest was what type of coverage was shown on each of the maps: in vehicle, in building, and/or outdoor coverage.  Not all maps showed all types of coverage.  Outdoor coverage is especially important for public safety.

Chairman Lick stated that, after the last tower proposal some years ago, the Town revised the ordinance to prefer shorter towers and having more towers.  The ordinance now says no more than 20’ above the trees, which means shorter towers and, to get the coverage, more towers.  According to Mr. Parisi, if the tower is only 20’ above the trees, the next carrier down will be barely above the trees, and the third carrier will be in the trees. He stated that it is technically impossible to build an effective tower with multiple antenna arrays that is only 20 feet above tree line.  Board Member Forsham also stated that, although the ordinance was revised to prefer shorter towers and having more towers, that was done a number of years ago and people are now much more reliant on cell phone technology and do not necessarily want more towers, just more efficient ones.  Chairman Lick reiterated that the Board needs to address the revised ordinance in its deliberations, there needs to be a balance between tower height and coverage area, and the Board will need to be able to explain why a specific height is best or why a specific height was chosen.

Board Member Canane stated that the prior Applicant was required to have a Radio Frequency Engineer (RFE) review the application, specifically reviewing transmitting frequencies, other suitable locations, and tower height.  He also reminded Mr. Parisi that a plan with a forester’s stamp is required.

Board Member Gordon asked, if the Board does not approve the 190’ facility, would the Applicant agree to a monopole or a shorter tower?  Mr. Parisi replied that there is no easy answer to this question as multiple parties are involved in this application.

Board Member Canane asked what instrument the Applicants used to address the Class VI road.  Mr. Parisi replied a variance request was submitted.  Chairman Lick said the Board appreciates the Applicants submitting the variance for footage.  Board Member Canane then reminded Mr. Parisi that any building permit off a Class VI road requires Selectmen approval.

Chairman Lick then asked for questions and/or comments from the Public.

Mr. Jones stated that not everyone in Sutton sees cell phone coverage as more important than views and visual “treasures.”  He commented that, because technology is evolving, who knows if towers will even be used in 5 or 10 years.  Maybe satellites will be used.  He suggested that the Board will need to have compelling reasons to approve the requested variances and special exception and that the Board’s decision will set a precedent.  Chairman Lick thanked Mr. Jones for his comments.  Chairman Lick then stated that the Town is obliged to provide cell towers and that the Board’s job is see that it is done in such a way that the towers are not intrusive.

Ms. Schneider asked the following questions:

Question 1.  If AT&T decides to vacate the tower and the tower is empty for a period, you will take the tower down.  What are the parameters, including how long the tower needs to be vacant, for deciding to take the tower down?  Mr. Parisi replied that the Zoning Boards often set the parameters and a bond is posted in the case that the tower is not taken down.

Question 2.  Is there any supporting data showing First Net is being used and has been found helpful?  Ms. Kohler replied that there have been trials, one of which was the Boston Marathon.

Question 3:  Is there a contractual amount Vertex receives that is dependent on the height of the tower?  Mr. Parisi said there is not but, if the Town of Sutton says the tower can only be 120’, AT&T may walk.  Also, Vertex will profit from other carriers being on the tower as long as the tower is high enough.

Question 4:  What is the likelihood that other carriers will use the tower as well as AT&T?  Mr. Parisi replied that the likelihood is good and that Vertex would not build the tower if it was not expecting other carriers to use the tower.  Once the tower is built, other carriers only have to add their antennas.

Board Member Canane asked if there are steep slopes in the proposed location.  Chairman Lick replied that steep slopes is a Planning Board issue.

The Board then decided to retain a Radio Frequency Engineer (RFE) to review the data provided by the Applicants, to determine the number of co-locators possible at each tower height, and to perform a propagation study of AT&T coverage only versus all carrier coverage to help explain the height needed.  Mr. Parisi will provide the Board with a list of consultant Radio Frequency Engineers and the Town will prepare a RFP.  Mr. Parisi also agreed to provide information about the Verizon coverage available.  In addition, the Board will ask the Town Administrator how many, if any, property assessments have been affected by a cell tower installation.

Chairman Lick moved to continue the Public Hearing on Wednesday, February 6, 2019 at 7:00 p.m.  This meeting will be a special meeting where the tower application will be the only agenda item.  Board Member Gordon seconded the motion.  The motion carried unanimously in the affirmative.

Due to the lateness of the hour, Board Member Hallahan left the meeting.

New Business:  No New Business came before the Board.

Old Business:  Case # Z-18-02.  Status update on the June 20, 2018 request by Alan and Priscilla West for a variance under Article VII, Section A.2 of the Sutton Zoning Ordinance for the multiple-use property located at 90 Main St., Sutton Mills NH 03221, Tax Map 06 Lot Number 416-245, in the Residential Zoning District.  The project has been stopped and will not go forward due to the high cost of sprinkler installation in the entire building which the Sutton Fire Chief said would be required.


Work Session to discuss ZBA meeting processes and procedures.

Deferred to the January 16, 2019 regular ZBA meeting: reconsider ZBA application wording re: submission deadline.

Correspondence and Final Comments.

The Land Use Coordinator mentioned receiving notice of the Antrim Planning Board application to construct a PWSF.

The Board briefly discussed the Land Use Coordinator’s job and the letter from the Selectmen re: noticing requirements.

Board Member Canane left the meeting and the remaining Board Members decided to defer a more thorough discussion of the Land Use Coordinator’s job, noticing requirements, and the Board’s Rules of Procedure until another regular ZBA meeting.

Next Regular Meeting: January 16, 2018.  The Land Use Coordinator handed out paper copies of the Byam application and said she would email electronic copies early next week.


Motion: There being no further business, Board Member Gordon moved to adjourn the meeting.  Chairman Lick seconded the motion.  The remaining Board Members voted in the affirmative, and the motion passed.  The meeting adjourned at 10:00 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,

Diane M. Lander

Town of Sutton Land Use Coordinator