Ham radio tower balloon test

A balloon test shows passersby the height of proposed towers.

Zachary Manganello’s year-long campaign to erect two ham radio towers — and his dispute with neighbors who oppose the structures — will continue at least into December.

The Dorset Street resident presented his amended application for a town permit at a Telecommunications Review Board hearing on Nov. 12. Opponents of the project will be heard at a second hearing, tentatively set for Dec. 17. 

Manganello, an amateur radio operator, originally proposed erecting two 70-foot towers on his property at 4450 Dorset Street. Antennae installed on tall towers allow him to communicate over greater distances with other ham radio enthusiasts, he explained.

In the face of opposition from neighbors, Manganello downsized his proposal to one 36-foot tower topped by a 4-foot mast and one 50.5-foot tower with a 10-foot mast. Guy wires would connect the two towers.

These changes have not appeased all the project’s opponents. In a written argument filed with the board late last month, a group of neighbors alleged that Manganello’s plans would replace “what were pristine mountain views with images of two conspicuous grey metal lattice structures and an expansive array of antennae all in the name of a single person’s hobby. … Applicant’s proposed towers [will] dramatically degrade the character of the area and views long enjoyed by dozens of nearby property owners and … numerous Shelburne residents…”

Manganello pushed back during his presentation to the board, saying “I recognize these structures aren’t going to be invisible, but I am trying to minimize their visibility.”

“In the spirit of kindness, I’m doing my best and I know the neighbors are too,” he said.

The shorter tower would be attached to the north face of Manganello’s home and the taller structure would be placed in his yard, closer to the tree line. Although the taller tower would be on higher ground than in the original proposal, Manganello said new location would use trees and the house as screening.  “I can’t plant a tree today that will be 35 feet tall,” he said, but added he is willing to help neighbors pay for plantings on their own property that would provide screening.”

A large portion of the hearing was spent talking about the possibility that Manganello could replace the taller tower with a collapsible or telescoping structure that could be lowered when the antennae are not in use. Manganello acknowledged that such towers are available, but opposed the idea, partly on grounds that a telescoping structure requires a big concrete base that would also be a visual blot. He also cited the time-consuming inconvenience of raising and lowering a retractable tower as well as his desire to keep the structure at its full height most of the time to collect data related to his hobby.

Manganello dismissed neighbors’ concerns about radio frequency radiation exposure from the towers, stating that past studies for the Federal Communications Commission show that the towers will not have harmful effects. 

Manganello said that he would be open to adding anti-climbing devices to his towers because neighbors have voiced concerns that children might try to scale the towers. 

Louis Hodgetts, Manganello’s engineer consultant, provided photo simulations requested by the board showing views of the proposed towers from spots along Dorset Street, Barstow Road and Sutton Farm Drive. In most photos, the taller tower was either visible or partially visible while the shorter tower was less visible or obstructed by trees.

Attorney Peter Raymond asked Manganello questions on behalf of the neighbors group. Raymond inquired if a shorter tower would still be able to function. Manganello said that he would be able to send and receive signals, but not nearly as well. “I could put a mattress in my yard with a 10-foot antenna, but I wouldn’t get that far,” he said. 

The ham radio operator’s amended proposal won applause from at least one review board member, Stephen Selin.

“What you’ve done as a team has severely improved the situation that was previously presented, you’ve done a lot more than you needed to,” he told Manganello.

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