By Stephen Seitz
KILLINGTON – Following a special meeting on July 22, Killington’s board of selectmen decided to support the placement of a new AT&T cell tower in the Pickle Barrel Nightclub parking lot on Killington Road. However, there are a few strings attached.
Of the choices offered by cell carrier AT&T: a 100-foot pole, disguising the pole as a pine tree, or a decorative tower with the town’s logo on the top, selectmen decided they could accept the latter tower. Under the formal resolution, the town wants final approval of the design, and AT&T agrees to maintain the structure.
“I don’t know if that’s the final design,” Town Manager Seth Webb said of the AT&T proposal, which features the town logo over four alternating blue and light green squares. “We would have approval over all aesthetics.”
Selectman Chris Bianchi, who attended the meeting via phone, said, “Since we can’t hide it, we should make the most of it.”
The state Public Service Board will have the final say over whether the tower is constructed or not. Patti McGrath said one of the goals of this action is to ensure the state takes the town’s concerns into consideration.
“We can hope the PSB requires a permit from the town, but they may not,” Bianchi said.
Pickle Barrel owner Chris Karr said the proposed location made sense. He said AT&T approached him about other land he owned for the tower, which would improve data service in the business district.
“I showed them the other lands,” he said. “They liked this site. They were able to lower the height of the tower. They felt they could save some additional money because they don’t have to build a road to get to this thing.”
The special meeting was needed because, at the board’s last regular meeting on July 15, public discussion went for an hour before the board decided it needed some time to draft a proper resolution for AT&T.
At the July 15 meeting, Bianchi said, “I can’t support the tower at this location. One reason is, we’ve been putting a lot of effort into making this whole area look better. It’s not a very pleasing area, but that doesn’t mean we should make it worse,” he said. “There has been a proposed pedestrian park on some town land right there, as a possible amenity. You’d be looking up directly over the building at this tower.”
Resident Vito Resenas read from a prepared statement at the special meeting.
“At the last selectboard meeting I asked, somewhat in jest, if the pole could be painted in town colors,” he said. “There was some laughter and nobody took it seriously, but I kept thinking about it. What better way than having the cell tower painted the town colors with the name vertically designed into the tower, maybe with a special “K” on top. This would accomplish the goals of way-finding and gateway construction, and probably get paid for it either by Chris Karr or AT&T.”
“It’s a great idea,” Bianchi said.
McGrath said her husband had been to Coeur d’Alene in Idaho, where similar towers had been cleverly disguised.
“They’re practically works of art,” she said.
“If we can incorporate it into what we’re trying to do, I think it’s a significant possibility,” Bianchi said.
Addressing AT&T attorney Beth Kohler, Webb said, “I think we’d be happy to talk about this and come up with some alternatives. As I said in the last meeting, we’d like to see the most coverage and no towers. I feel like there are some creative solutions, and I don’t know they’ve been fully exhausted. I know AT&T has been working with the resort. I think that we do have an initiative to improve our commercial district… We would love to work with you to meet that challenge, to figure out how to provide coverage here, and do it in a way that’s consistent with the direction the town is trying to go.”
Karr said the improved cell service would be welcome.
“Ultimately, our visitors want that level of coverage,” Karr said.