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Hadley Select Board appealing historic panel’s cell tower ruling

HADLEY — The Select Board is appealing a Hadley Historical Commission vote against the installation of a cellphone tower on East Street to the state historical commission.

The proposed 80-foot tower would replace the 60-foot tower that now stands next to the public safety complex. The additional 20 feet would provide enhanced reception for the town’s emergency personnel, who currently have gaps in their communication system, according to town officials.

The officials also argue that the new tower would also be a revenue boost for the town.

David Nixon, Hadley town administrator, said that under an agreement with Verizon, the pole operator, Hadley would be eligible to collect 50 percent of the revenue generated by leasing available space on the pole to other telecommunications operators. Verizon would also pay the town $18,000 annually for the pole, a figure that would grow by 3 percent each year, Nixon said.

The telecommunications operator is looking to boost its own cellphone reception in town, he said.

“The higher the tower, the more coverage you get,” Nixon said.

Joyce Chunglo, the Select Board’s vice chairman, said Town Meeting approved the new tower in 2011.

“The Historical Commission in town has ignored what town meeting voted for,” she said. “They are holding up the process in terms of collecting money and public safety.

“We have not received anything from Verizon because they won’t go against the Historical Commission,” Chunglo continued. “We feel the public safety of the town is more important than 20 extra feet of tower that most people won’t see.”

Ginger Goldsbury, a Historical Commission member, said the board voted against the tower because it believes it will have an adverse visual impact on the nearby Hadley Historic District. She acknowledged that the town has legitimate reasons to want the tower, but noted that those were outside the purview of the commission’s authority.

“The only thing we are permitted to vote on is whether it would have an adverse impact on the historic district,” she said. The board, she said, felt that would be the case with the tower, due to its height.

“It also sets a precedent and we felt very uncomfortable with that,” Goldsbury said, noting that in the future telecommunications operators could point to the East Street pole as a reason to override concerns about the impact on the historic district.

The Select Board is appealing to the Massachusetts Historical Commission, which oversees local commissions.

“The public safety issues within this project are important,” Nixon said. “The Select Board is asking the Massachusetts Historical Commission to take the public safety into account and expedite their approval.”

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