Milton P&Z commission approves Verizon site plans

Cell carrier can seek building permit for 140-foot tower
March 25, 2023

Years of debate and comment regarding a proposed cellphone tower on Front Street in Milton were pretty much wrapped up in less than 20 minutes as the town’s planning and zoning commission unanimously gave final site-plan approval for the 140-foot-tall structure.

At the commission’s March 21 meeting, members asked a number of questions related to geotechnical studies of the site and the roadway leading to the tower, but at this stage in Milton’s review process, an application has already been subject to a public hearing, met conditions imposed for preliminary approval, and undergone review by state and county agencies. Public comment is typically not taken during final site-plan review. 

Thus, a packed audience at Grace Church Fellowship Hall watched as Verizon representatives and the commission went through any last-minute questions before a vote was held. 

The cell tower has been a controversial issue in Milton dating back to March 2019, when Verizon officials first announced plans to build a facility at the town’s public works garage to help remedy problems including dropped calls and unreliable signals. At the time, Verizon officials said mounting an antenna on an existing structure, such as a water tower, would not produce the desired coverage. 

Verizon was granted a special-use permit in March 2021, which was appealed by resident Barry Goodinson a month later. Council affirmed the permit in August 2021. Preliminary site plans were approved by planning and zoning in November 2021. That approval was also appealed, this time by resident Allan Benson. Town council again ruled in Verizon’s favor.

The location of the tower in the existing town public works yard at 210 Front St. has been the main issue for opponents, who say the tower would be an eyesore in a part of town that frequently floods. They also point to the comprehensive development plan, which says the area is intended to be a town gateway, especially after the wastewater treatment plant is demolished when Artesian’s new plant on Route 30 is up and running.

To address flooding concerns during the preliminary site-plan review process, the commission attached a series of conditions that must be met prior to final approval, including a geotechnical analysis of the site in both wet and dry conditions, permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a sequence of construction, no pile-driving allowed, an analysis of runoff and flooding, vibration monitoring and a promise that Verizon will maintain plantings around the site.

Verizon nearly didn’t make it to final approval because in February, council took up the issue of whether to terminate the company’s land-lease agreement for the site at 210 Front St. 

By a 4-1 vote, council members decided not to terminate the lease, citing the possibility of lawsuits, the need for better cell coverage outweighing reservations about the proposed location, and testimony from Verizon representatives that the company is close to submitting plans for final approval.

With the final site-plan approval, Verizon, by code, can move forward with seeking a building permit for the tower and the associated access road to the site. 


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