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Planning Board Approves Verizon Building Modifications

By Courtney Taylor, Master Control

The Planning Board voted to approve the site plan for the Verizon building at 35 Hayden Rowe Street during their June 2 meeting. A new generator is required at the site because the current generator is running at 100% capacity. Everything in the building has to be connected to the generator in the event of a power outage, and currently the building cannot be expanded because of this. Present at the meeting were architect Dennis Gray, consultants Lawrence Copley and Sandra Lake, and Verizon representative Scott Robinson.

Continuing the discussion from the May 12 Planning Board meeting, sound levels were taken from the current generator and equipment. Currently, from the closest property lines on Fenton Street and Hayden Rowe Street, the generator produces 50 and 55 decibels respectively. With the new generator encased in sound housing and fencing, it will produce 48 decibels on a ground floor. The fencing is 8 feet high and there will be a slightly louder sound heard on second floors of homes. However, the new generator will only run during weekly testing that will take place between 9:00 AM-5:00 PM or during a power outage to keep the building and the telephone network running.

Eight fans will be installed as part of the HVAC system to keep equipment cool, with all eight running during hot days and none on colder days. The number of fans running will be determined by temperature. With all eight fans running, the closest house on Fenton street will hear 43 decibels during the day and 37 at night. The HVAC equipment that is installed is expected to be quieter than what is currently on the property and will have sound proofing. Eight foot plants will provide additional visual screening.

After hearing concerns from abutters, the new generator was moved on the site plan to bring it seven feet farther away from the closest properties. However, there was still concern from abutters that the new generator was behind the building instead of in front of the building where the current generator is. The current generator had been moved to the front of the building after producing noise and blowing diesel fumes onto nearby properties. Because of the sound housing and fencing, the generator will be quieter, but is too large to fit in the front of the building.

Another concern from abutters was the fumes and smoke that would be produced from a diesel generator and whether or not a natural gas generator could be used. Lake stated that diesel generators had always been used by Verizon because a fuel source was close at hand in the case of a power outage whereas a gas line could be interrupted. Lake also stated that there have been “catastrophic explosions” with gas generators.

“...Verizon is not interested in looking at anything like that for emergency generators,” said Lake.

Richardson has looked into the possibility of using natural gas generators at Verizon but has received no response.

To help mitigate the fumes, the new generator will have an exhaust stack and will use a low-sulfur fuel that cuts back on emissions. The exhaust stack caused some concern among abutters because the original generator had an exhaust stack that allowed diesel smoke to blow through the neighborhoods.

If the generator were to fail during a power outage, some backup batteries would keep the Verizon building running for two to four hours. A new generator would then be brought in and hooked up to provide power.

The Board voted to approve the plan, though Board member Claire Wright was unable to vote as an abutter and Fran DeYoung was unable to vote as a new member of the Board. The plan still needs approval from the Board of Appeals for two variances.