PULPIT ROCK TOWER — Pros & Cons of cell relay station
Reception a problem along coast; neighbors working on alternatives
For the past half dozen years efforts have come and gone like the tides to use the Pulpit Rock Tower at the north end of Rye as a cellphone communications relay station due to lack of reception along the coast. Most recently Verizon has expressed interest to the N.H. Fish and Game Department, which presently holds rights to the property, in installing a communications setup there.
A May 5 meeting of the Rye Board of Selectmen centered around possible alternative sites, and late in May the Fish and Game Department agreed to discuss a proposal, probably later this month, to have neighbors raise several thousand dollars to clean the tower in return for keeping the 65-year-old structure antennae free. However, discussions with Verizon have not been dropped, according to land agent Betsey McNaughten of Fish and Game. "We have paused," she said.
Below are articles by proponents and opponents of a cellphone relay station at the Pulpit Rock Tower:
AGAINST: The following article was written by members of the Friends of Pulpit Rock Tower.
Cellphones are great convenience, some would say benefit, to us. We are also acutely aware of how precious living in Rye is, how we have a connectedness with each other, the ocean and the past, how we love our semi-rural town full of stone walls and attractive homes. We are deeply concerned that the risks of allowing Pulpit Rock Tower to be used as a cellphone tower to our Rye community far outweigh the minor benefit of allowing such a use. The downside is simply too great to allow historic Pulpit Rock Tower, nestled in a tight residential neighborhood between Wallis Sands State Beach and Odiorne Point, to be used as a cellular telephone transmission facility.
The first downside is the loss of a historical asset. Pulpit Rock Tower is a unique and endangered link to our local military history. One of fourteen towers built to help defend Portsmouth Harbor during WWII, the Pulpit Rock Tower is one of the few towers still standing. Nine have been demolished and one (on Appledore Island) has suffered grievous structural damage and is greatly compromised. Still others have been incorporated into private homes or businesses. Pulpit Rock Tower, the only cylindrical tower built in defense of Portsmouth Harbor, remains owned by the public in its unadulterated form, except for normal deterioration. Verizon Wireless's proposal, calling for Tower alterations, roof-top antennas, a large support building, generators, and a security fence, would render this landmark inaccessible to historians, veterans, school groups and the citizens of Rye.
The second negative factor is that issues of public safety and "dead zone" coverage are not solved by allowing Verizon to transmit from the historic tower. We are generally in favor of using alternative antenna structures such as towers and church steeples when they are a substitute for a free standing tower. However, a free standing tower will still be needed to provide adequate coverage if the Pulpit Rock proposal is allowed. Because of its height and construction, Pulpit Rock Tower will support only one cellphone carrier and will not provide the multi-carrier coverage one might expect with a proposal purported to enhance public safety. Verizon, by its own admission, has not weighed the merits of this proposal against a multi-carrier tower to be located on nearby town, state or private land, some of which is already zoned for cell tower use. One can only suspect Pulpit Rock Tower presents a unique competitive opportunity for Verizon to dominate coverage in the area. Rye will be left with more towers than are necessary to afford coverage to all with the associated negative impacts towers bring.
The third risk - actually more a certainty - is impact to nearby property values. While Rye has a number of areas zoned for cell towers, the Pulpit Rock neighborhood is not among them. No commercial or industrial buildings or uses are allowed at or near the tower. Verizon's proposal calling for multiple antennas, a 30-foot shed, generators, fuel tanks, power lines, roadway and the like, all jammed into the 4/10 acre lot, industrializes the neighborhood. Our quiet, semirural residential neighborhood will be completely altered. In addition, perceptions of negative health effects frighten away potential purchasers. Multiple studies have shown property value decreases of 10-30% when a cell transmitter is installed nearby. Is the Town of Rye prepared to lower those residents' property taxes to reflect this impact? Is the Town ready to have its abutting land devalued? And, by the way, Rye will derive absolutely no revenue from the Verizon proposal as the parcel is owned by the State. Rather, Rye will receive only headaches in the way of angry neighbors, security breaches, noise complaints, safety concerns and police and fire calls to the site.
The final — and most controversial risk - is that of health impacts to nearby residents. While the Telecommunications Act of 1996 decreed that no legal objections could be made regarding cell tower locations based on health risks to humans, history has shown that science advances in unpredictable ways. Unshielded x-rays, Thalidomide, Vioxx, Agent Orange and hormone replacement therapy were all seen as beneficial in their day — but later found to have tragic side effects. Rye residents live, work, and sleep within 100 feet of Pulpit Rock Tower. What parent would feel comfortable putting his child to bed knowing cell transmissions are streaming through the child's window from a source so close by? And what Rye official would be willing to GUARANTEE that no long-term health impact will result?
Our group, the Friends of Pulpit Rock Tower, has a vision for the Tower that does not involve cellular antennas, high fences and ugly outbuildings full of electronic equipment. It does not affect property values or residents' health. Instead, we hope to link the past with the present and future, to celebrate the Tower's history and attributes. We'd like to see the Tower restored, its history made available to school children and the public as a whole. Plaques, pamphlets, and occasional tours could be available to inform the public about the Tower and the brave servicemen who protected our shores during a time of national crisis. Perhaps the Tower could be marketed in conjunction with Fort Dearborn, Ft. Stark, Ft. Constitution and other military sites as a "military trail" as other states have done. Perhaps, too it could benefit the public as a whole (rather than simply Verizon subscribers) in a way that does not affect the historical integrity of the Tower such as housing weather equipment. Of course it should still be made available to public safety officials to observe boats and ships at sea. The Friends of Pulpit Rock Tower is committed to working to achieve such a future for the Tower and is presently seeking grant monies and private contributions to achieve these goals should the cell tower proposal be dropped.
Towers like Pulpit Rock are an endangered species, and should be protected and treasured like one. We ask the citizens of Rye to come together to find a true solution to our cellphone coverage limitations and not be fooled into one that benefits only one carrier at great expense to Rye citizens. If you'd like to work to protect the tower, contribute, or just find out more about the historic tower or the Verizon proposal, please contact us at friendsofpulpitrocktower
FOR: The following article in favor of using the Pulpit Rock Tower for a cellphone antenna was written by Carl R. Burnap, who represented 130 petitioners, many of whom appeared before the Rye Board of Selectmen in September, 2006.
Now that we have endured a long hard winter all of us are looking forward to the welcomed summer season. This brings an influx of many visitors to our beaches as well as the summer people returning to their summer cottages.
This increase of people to our area also brings with it many problems. Traffic increases, our beach population increases tenfold. This is normal every year for the summer season. These problems are magnified, because most of our seacoast area is what is known as the DEAD ZONE. What is the DEAD ZONE?
The DEAD ZONE is the area south of Ordiorne State Park including most of our beach locations. It means that if someone wants to use a cellphone in this area a signal cannot be depended on. If the wind is right and you stand on one leg with your hand in the air, you may receive a signal. However you cannot depend on it.
What is needed is a signal that can be depended upon not only for general conversation but for emergencies that are bound to happen. A short time ago our phone was out of order and we had to call the phone company. To do this I traveled up to the center of town and used my cellphone. It took the company over 24 hours to correct the problem. Fortunately for us we did not have an emergency. It did, however, bring us to realize how much we depend on phone service.
We in Rye are fortunate that we have in the DEAD ZONE area a tower at Pulpit Rock Road. This tower was built in 1943 by the government for the defense of Portsmouth Harbor. The tower in 1978 was given to the N.H. Fish & Game, and they used it for a look out so as to watch fishermen in the area.
When it was no longer of any use to them, they abandoned it, and it became a place for nesting birds, animals and I suppose other uses. It is now considered to be a "Bio Hazard", and it is unfit to be used for any useful venture. The excrement is reported to be 6 feet deep on all its floors. This alone would be health hazard to the people living in the general area.
There has been in the last two to three years an effort to use it as a cell tower. This would solve the DEAD ZONE problem, and the mess in the tower would be cleaned up. There is, however, some opposition to its use for reasons only known to the neighbors in the area. The appearance of the tower will not be changed enough to notice. I can understand that if a new tower was to be constructed the people would be upset.
However, this is not the case. The location around the tower would be improved and would be kept up in appearance and would not be neglected as it has been in the past. As far as an access road to the tower, Parsons Road Is about 100 feet away through vacant land. Even if the tower someday is considered to be a Historic Site, the appearance will not change. Because of the importance of a good signal for the PUBLIC GOOD, the tower should be utilized.
The Congregational Church in the center of Rye has for the last seven to eight years had in the church steeple two transmitters. The church receives a rental fee from the users. There have been stories about people using cellphones and being in the vicinity of cell towers that are subject to health problems.
I have a strong reason to feel that this is not true. I do not believe that such a thing would have been allowed. If true, I will have to stop attending Sunday services at that church.
I strongly feel that the tower at Pulpit Rock Road should be put to good use. That use would serve two purposes. One, it would clean up the dangerous health condition that now exists within the tower, and, two, It would make available, for the public good, a strong cellphone signal for the general public.
Hopefully in the near future, the DEAD ZONE problem can be improved if not solved.
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