Verizon Wireless is proposing to install wireless communications equipment in the bell tower of The Second Congregational Church in Newcastle.
The Newcastle Planning Board accepted a site plan review application as complete Thursday, Feb. 18 and scheduled a public hearing on the proposal.
The hearing will take place via Zoom at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, March 18, pending notification of all abutters by the applicant, Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems LLC, doing business as Verizon Wireless.
Ben Frey, chair of the planning board, said the town’s tower ordinance requires notification of abutters and a public hearing.
Antennas and radio equipment would be installed in the bell tower and screened from view, said Sean Mahoney, a real estate consultant at SAI Communications who is representing the applicant.
He said the only visible component would be an air conditioning condenser unit on the east corner of the building.
“We believe we’ve designed a facility that will cause the least impact to the structure and any improvements we make to it, installing the antennas and any other equipment, will be completely reversible,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney said the facility will improve cellular signals in the Damariscotta River valley.
“I think we’ve got a good pinpoint solution for this area,” Mahoney said.
The antennas will connect to a 72-square-foot utility room on the first floor using hybrid cables.
The application includes photos simulating what the church steeple would look like with the antennas and screening installed.
Jim Corbett, a member of the church’s board of trustees, said by phone on Tuesday, Feb. 24 that he has been working with Mahoney for about two years to come up with a solution acceptable to the trustees and the congregation.
He said Bell Atlantic will rent the space from the church, creating a source of revenue.
“Unfortunately, many churches are hurting. It’s a sign of the times. And we’re doing what we can to help the church and stay relevant as well, and stay in the community to serve the community,” Corbett said.
He mentioned the church hosting the Ecumenical Food Pantry in its basement every Tuesday as an important community need, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.