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Peabody neighbors organize fight against Verizon cell tower

Peabody Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. talks about the proposed Verizon cell tower to a standing-room-only meeting at the home of Jon and Jennifer Swanson on Tuesday. (Owen O'Rourke)

PEABODY — It was standing room only at Jon and Jennifer Swanson’s home Tuesday night.

More than 100 neighbors packed the couple’s living and dining rooms, kitchen and front porch as they organized a fight against a cell tower in South Peabody.

The Swansons live across the street from Michael’s Limousine Co., the site of a proposed 60-foot cell tower. The meeting was held in the wake of a Land Court ruling in March which ordered the city to issue permits for the tower to Verizon Wireless within 30 days.

Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. said he slipped out of a School Committee meeting to attend the gathering because the issue is so important to the neighborhood.

“We have been engaged in a legal battle with Verizon since the spring of 2014,” he said. “They are a corporate giant trying to roll over neighborhoods. I love the action the neighborhood is taking and I pledge to you we will keep fighting.”

The mayor praised City Council President Jon Turco, City Councilors-at-Large Anne Manning-Martin and Thomas Gould for fighting the good fight. He said the city recently appealed the judge’s ruling to the Massachusetts Appeals Court.

Verizon has maintained the tower would fix coverage gaps and add 5G, or fifth-generation, cellular wireless service for faster downloads. Federal law allows utilities to provide the service and limits the authority of cities and towns.

Bettencourt expressed hope that a solution is within reach. Negotiations continue between the telecommunications giant and the Peabody Municipal Light Plant (PMLP), the city’s electric utility company.

Under discussion is the installation of a dozen canisters on light poles on the city’s south side that would not be seen from the street. The pint-sized containers would provide the same services without a tower. He encouraged residents to let the PMLP know they favor an agreement.

“My hope is PMLP, which is a separate entity for the city, can help us out and make this work for us and not have a tower,” he said. “Let’s stay engaged.”

Turco said he has been reluctant to take part in the neighborhood’s organized effort on social media to boycott Michael’s Limousine.

“But you residents can do whatever you want, it’s your right to protect your neighborhood,” he said.

Jaclyn Corriveau, who owns a home on Lynn Street, said she got involved in the fight against Verizon following the judge’s ruling. Her father made 50 “No Cell Tower” signs and she has been distributing them to homeowners.

“I don’t want to hate on a business owner, especially one that has been so cooperative,” she said. “But I think it was a very poor decision to lease the space to Verizon and a very selfish one.”

 

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