South Peabody resident Brian Gallant protests the construction of a 60-foot tower on Lynn Street. (Anne Manning Martin)
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Peabody residents step up opposition to proposed Verizon cell tower

PEABODY — Residents of South Peabody are ratcheting up their opposition to a proposed cell tower at Michael's Limousine.

Neighbors have taken to the Moving Peabody Forward Facebook page to encourage a boycott of the family-owned company on Lynn Street that has served the North Shore for more than 20 years.

Heather R. Scanlan's post was typical of the dozens of comments: "You are allowing Verizon to erect a cell tower on your property. You are destroying our neighborhood. I will no longer recommend you to my friends."

Tara Hudson Champigny was even more blunt: "Boycott Michael's Limousine, No cell phone tower in a residential neighborhood."

The renewed activism follows a Land Court decision last month which sided with Verizon Wireless. Judge Jennifer Roberts ruled the city's denial of a permit for a 60-foot tower prohibits the telecommunications giant from providing cell service and violates the federal law.

Verizon has maintained the tower would fix coverage gaps and add 5G, or fifth-generation, cellular wireless service for faster downloads.

Roberts ordered the City Council, which has consistently opposed the location, to "take all necessary actions to remove any further impediments to the construction of a proposed cell tower" at 161 Lynn St.

Last month, the City Council voted to file an appeal.

The fight began in 2014, when Verizon sought permission to construct the tower at Michael's. The City Council rejected that proposal, saying a tower does not belong in a residential neighborhood. Verizon then filed the first of two lawsuits.

The council and Verizon agreed on a new site at the rear of the Coolidge Avenue Water Treatment Plant in 2014. But the municipal election the following year changed the membership of the panel and they rejected that spot as well, and Verizon filed lawsuit.

Under the terms of an agreement with Verizon, Michael Kostopoulos, the owner of Michael's Limousine, collects $3,000 in rent from the utility, according to City Council President Jon Turco.

"Mike is not a bad guy," Turco said. "I advised him not to enter into an agreement with Verizon, but he did, and now we're hoping he can get out of it."

In an interview with The Item, Kostopoulos said he's not sure there's a way to opt out of the deal.

"I am reviewing my options," he said. "I genuinely care about my neighbors because my neighbors have been great to me. I greatly appreciate what the city of Peabody has done for me and that will not be overlooked. A lot of the Facebook comments are unnecessary. I am working to make everyone happy, neighbors first."

City Councilor-at-Large Anne Manning-Martin said she has been battling the Lynn Street site for five years.

"I will continue to fight it until the bitter end," she said. "The fact that anyone would subject a neighborhood to a giant tower near their homes is an affront to a community that has welcomed the business (Michael's) for more than 20 years. It's absolutely appalling."

Brian Gallant, who lives about a quarter of a mile from Michael's on Longwood Avenue, said it's not likely he would see the tower from his family's home, but he is still opposed.

"I'm not sure I will be able to see it from my yard," he said. "But I'm concerned for my neighbors. It's unfair that some residents will see their home property values drop for the tower to go up."

Jon Swanson, a homeowner on Welcome Street abutting Michael's, said he understands the need for a tower, but this is not the place.

"We're fighting because this is our backyard," he said. "It's not a commercial property where you see 99 percent of these towers. Federal law says the city has to allow utility companies to build in places with cell phone gaps, but it doesn't say it's OK to put it in a neighborhood. This tower will devalue our property."

Swanson has scheduled a neighborhood meeting at his home on Tuesday, May 7 at 6:30 p.m. at 9 Welcome St.

Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. did not respond to a request for comment.

Ward 5 City Councilor Joel Saslaw said the city needs to work on finding an alternative location.

"I know for a fact that it can be put in a better place," he said. "I'm sure we can figure this out."


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