WELD — The Planning Board on Wednesday evening unanimously approved a cellphone tower building application submitted by AT&T/SAI on July 27.

The board held an informational meeting via Zoom videoconferencing about the proposed tower on July 29, which raised many questions and concerns.

A decision was tabled at the Aug. 12 meeting pending review of the town’s ordinances by its attorney.

An informal survey taken at the town transfer station Aug. 23 found 54.1% of respondents used Verizon, 21.6% U.S. Cellular, 5.4% each used T-Mobile or another carrier, and only 2.7% AT&T. A little more than 10% had no cellphone.

The survey also showed that about twice as many wanted a cellphone tower in Weld with a few undecided.

Of those wanting a tower in Weld, 54.1% wanted it where there would be no visual impact, while 32.4% preferred it on Saddleback Ridge in Carthage, 8.1% wanted it on Mt. Blue and 5.4% would accept the proposed location with a balloon test.

“Thank you to everybody who has shown their concern, their research and input. Everybody loves this town, we all want to do what’s best,” Planning Board Chairman Naomi Doughty said before the vote. “The board has received much information from the public and passed this research on to the town’s lawyers. We have to do what we feel our ordinances tell us to do.”

The tower will be across from Lost Cove, just before Fire Lane 17 and beyond the Weld Inn on the Phillips Road. AT&T has leased the site from Kevin and Holly Cochran.

One question raised since the Aug. 12 meeting was whether the tower could be on that site, based on specifications listed on the deed recorded at the Franklin County Registry of Deeds. The deed for Map 7, Lot 65, dated June 3, 2000, states that “the right of way conveyed herein is for non-commercial purposes and shall be for only one single family dwelling insofar as the premises conveyed herein are concerned (it also being for a single-family dwelling for the purposes of the premises retained by the Grantors herein.)”

The right of way is not connected with the project in any manner, according to the town’s attorneys at Bernstein Shur, Planning Board member Nancy Stowell said.

The lawyers also determined AT&T’s application was in compliance with Section 21.1-9 of the Weld Building Ordinance.

More than an hour of continued discussion and new questions surfaced after the vote was taken. Several people didn’t realize the application had been approved.

It was suggested the motion and second be rescinded in order to hold a public hearing on the issue prior to a vote.

“I’m not going to rescind,” Stowell, who made the motion, said. “The motion at the last meeting was to confer with our attorneys. We have voted but you can appeal our decision.”

AT&T still has to go through the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state process before the tower is allowed, AT&T representative Pete Marchand said.

Asked to do a feasibility study on a property on Saddleback Ridge in Carthage that is home to several windmills, Marchand said it doesn’t make sense to put another tower next to one AT&T already has in Carthage.

“AT&T has been looking at this for a couple years. It’s been determined Weld lacks service. That’s why we’re there,” Marchand added.

Some funding for the project comes from FirstNet, an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce. Created after 9/11, its mission is to equip first responders with the telecommunications they need to respond to emergencies.

Time may be running out on the FirstNet funding, Heidi Randall-Stowell said, referencing a comment made at the Aug. 12 meeting.

“Our community takes a lot of pride in its conservation efforts,” she said. “The Weld community deserves a public hearing on this. We value communication, not only with our cellphones but with each other.”

“I know this doesn’t make a lot of people happy,” Doughty said.

If this saves one life it will be worth it, resident Laureen Pratt said.

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