Local Government and Politics, News

Peabody mayor to hold cell tower meeting Tuesday night

An artist rendering of the proposed Verizon Wireless cell tower for South Peabody. (Courtesy )

PEABODY — Mayor Edward Bettencourt Jr. has scheduled a meeting Tuesday night to quash rumors that a 60-foot cell tower is about to break ground on the city’s south side.

“I’ve received a number of calls from people who have seen misinformation on social media that construction of the Verizon Wireless pole is imminent,” he said. “That’s not the case.”

The session is set for 6 p.m. at the Captain Samuel Brown Elementary School on Lynn Street.

The mayor said he plans to update neighbors on the status of the city’s lawsuit against the telecommunications giant, and the court schedule.

“It’s important to make sure incorrect information is not out there and to just lay it all out to everyone about where things stand,” he said. “I’m sure people have questions.”

Last month, the city appealed a Land Court decision  that sided with Verizon. After more than four years and six alternate sites that were rejected, the city’s denial of a permit prohibits the utility from providing cell service and violates federal law, Associate Justice Jennifer Roberts wrote in her decision. Verizon has maintained that the tower would fix coverage gaps in the region.

Roberts ordered the City Council to grant a special permit or any other permit and “take all necessary actions to remove any further impediments to the construction of a proposed cell tower” at 161 Lynn St.

Briefs on the case are due at the Massachusetts Appeals Court later this month. 

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

Since then, Verizon and the Peabody Municipal Light Plant (PMLP), the city’s electric utility company, have been in negotiations for an alternative to building a tower. 

Instead of an unsightly tower, the light utility would lease space on its poles for a dozen 12-inch canisters to improve wireless and cell phone service. 

But those negotiations are at an impasse. PLMP, Verizon and the mayor wouldn’t say how far apart the parties are on the financial deal.

In May, it was standing room only at Jon and Jennifer Swanson’s home across the street from Michael’s Limousine Co. That 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. 

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