Bedford Town Council performs Kabuki Theater. Ignores residents on cell tower

One of the numerous Bedford residents who spoke against the cell tower on Chubbuck Road

Last week the Bedford Town Council heard arguments from residents against the proposed cell tower at Chubbuck Road. For over an hour, resident after resident testified before the council on the reasons why they do not want the cell tower to be approved in the residential location that is also located in the area of the Riddle Brook Elementary School.

This isn’t the first time Bedford residents have fought against the cell tower on Chubbuck Road. A couple of years ago, the cell tower was first proposed by a company called Crown Castle, as previously reported. The town manager at the time signed a lease agreement with the town before getting approval from the town council and the zoning board ended up rejecting the proposal. Crown Castle sued the town but eventually withdrew their suit and then in came Blue Sky, LLC, represented by the same attorney, Earl Duval.

The agenda for last week’s town council meeting was to propose that town manager Rick Sawyer be approved to have lease discussions with Blue Sky but residents had other ideas about the cell tower. Once again, they were fighting against the tower from being approved or ever put in place on Chubbuck Road. There were quite a few residents in attendance, including school children who attend the Riddle Brook School.

Chairwoman Kelleigh Murphy explained the background of the cell tower at Chubbuck Road but neglects to mention that the residents fought against it back then; Crown Castle sued the town over the application and lease and didn’t just simply withdraw – they withdrew their lawsuit; the new company. Blue Sky, LLC is represented by the same lawyer that represented Crown Castle; the proposal is exactly the same other than the height of the tower which changed from 190 feet to 130 feet.

Bedford resident Kathleen Bemis gave a presentation. She questioned whether the new company, Blue Sky, LLC is the same company as Crown Castle who sued the town. Bemis goes on to compare the coverage and how very few streets would actually be impacted when it comes to cell coverage. The proposal from 2015 compared to the new one now would not change any of that. The zoning board denied this twice because they didn’t feel it was needed and didn’t feel the applicant met the burden of proof that this was needed.

Resident after resident spoke in opposition to the cell tower. There were even residents who didn’t live in the affected neighborhood that were there in opposition and were at the town council to speak out against the tower as well. Some brought up the fact that the tower will do nothing to help safety communications and not do much to help increase service.

Duval seemed agitated during the meeting to the point that even Chairwoman Murphy commented on it. Duval mentioned that if his client can’t come to an agreement with the town, they will simply look to private land owners to put a cell tower in and they will get it done. Duval said Verizon always tries to work with towns first but if that doesn’t work out they then seek sites elsewhere. Of course, that should still require approval from the zoning board. The same board that nixed the cell tower at Chubbuck Road twice.

Murphy brought a motion forward to have the council vote to not allow a cell tower at the Chubbuck Road site. She said she was asked to bring that motion forward by residents and she was keeping her promise to do so. Before the motion could be voted on by the council, other councilors started asking questions (they should have already known the answers to). You could see the kabuki theater wheels spinning when another councilor mentioned that she needed more information.

During this time, a few residents once again spoke up and one commented that if they put the vote on the cell tower off for a year and someone is trying to sell their house, the real estate agent has to let any potential buyers know there could be a cell tower in their ‘backyard’ in the future. Decreased home values were one of the big issues discussed by residents, along with health issues.

Town Manager Rick Sawyer also seemed to want to make it clear that he isn’t pushing for the cell tower, although, he actually recommends the cell tower despite the fact it will serve absolutely no purpose for safety communications. His recommendation cites safety communications as his excuse for supporting the cell tower against residents’ wishes despite evidence to the contrary.

The discussion of the cell tower was nothing but Kabuki Theater, brought to Bedford residents by the town council and others who played their parts as well. It is still unclear why there seem to be some people hell bent on putting this cell tower on Chubbuck Road. As Duval pointed out, his client could seek private land rather than town-owned property to put in a cell tower. Why haven’t they already?

The Chubbuck Road cell tower saga has been going on for years. It started with backroom deals with the former town manager Steven Daly and it appears there may still be backroom deals going on that most residents don’t partake in. Town planner Karin Elmer even shares the emails of residents who oppose the cell tower with Duval before meetings. Why would a town employee give information to the opposition?

Why would the Bedford Town Council, after over three years of hearing about this issue, not vote against the cell tower when they had the chance and when it is clearly what Bedford residents want? The town council had the opportunity to put this issue to sleep once and for all and chose not to. Bedford residents should be questioning why.

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