U.S. Cellular has canceled its plans to build a cellphone tower on Townhouse Road, Whitefield Planning Board Chair Jim Torbert said.
Upon hearing the news, the Whitefield Appeals Board canceled its meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 30, believing the appeal of planning board approval of the project was moot.
Legal counsel advised the appeals board to consider the appeal anyway because Whitefield has yet to receive notification of U.S. Cellular’s decision in writing, according to Torbert.
The appeals board then decided to hold the meeting, but reversed that decision to give U.S. Cellular time to submit formal notification of its decision to cancel the tower.
Whitefield has asked Black Diamond Consultants, U.S. Cellular’s agent in the application process for the 190-foot monopole cellphone tower, to submit a formal letter asking Whitefield to cancel the application for the cellphone tower, Torbert said.
If the town does not receive a formal request within about a week, the appeals board will consider the appeal, Torbert said.
Torbert was notified Tuesday, Nov. 29 of U.S. Cellular’s decision, he said. Jim Hebert, of Black Diamond Consultants, told Torbert that U.S. Cellular made a corporate decision to cancel a number of its planned cellphone towers.
“That’s really all I know,” Torbert said. “He said it had nothing to do with the appeal and that they were canceling a number of projects.”
Hebert was also informed by U.S. Cellular on Tuesday, Nov. 29 of its decision to cancel the Whitefield site, Hebert said. “It’s disappointing,” Hebert said, but was not connected to the appeal.
“We’ve had appeals before,” Hebert said. “It’s fine. It’s expected from people who are concerned. You just have to go through the process.”
Hebert also had few details on U.S. Cellular’s decision, he said.
Efforts to reach a spokesperson for U.S. Cellular for comment were unsuccessful by press time.
Plans for a cellphone tower in Whitefield date back to 2014, when U.S Cellular initiated a real estate search to identify a suitable location for it, according to previous reports in The Lincoln County News.
The property of John Pagurko, on 571 Townhouse Road, was chosen as a potential location.
The Whitefield Planning Board amended the town’s wireless communications ordinance to raise the height of allowable cellphone towers to 199 feet, a change voters overwhelmingly approved in June.
After months of reviewing the application and soliciting public feedback, the Whitefield Planning Board approved the proposed tower with a series of conditions.
There were two appeals of the decision: one was dismissed in mid-November because the appellant was anonymous, and one which the appeals board will hear Wednesday.
Torbert expressed disappointment about U.S. Cellular’s decision. “I thought we had an opportunity to improve cellphone coverage in town,” Torbert said. “We thought this was a good opportunity to do it, but it didn’t pan out.”
Improved cellphone coverage is something people in Whitefield clearly want, Torbert said, noting the vote to increase the maximum height of cellphone towers.
“U.S. Cellular was planning this on their own behalf to improve their coverage and deal with dead spots,” Torbert said. “For some reason they decided that’s not important to them.”
Perhaps another company will be interested in Whitefield, Torbert said.
(This article has been updated to reflect the appeals board’s decision to meet Wednesday, Nov. 30. At press time, the appeals board had canceled the meeting.)
(Second update: This article has been updated to reflect the appeals board’s decision to postpone the meeting.)