ROCKPORT – Town Manager Jon Duke is recommending a “no” vote from the Select Board on a proposal to place an item on the ballot, concerning a planned 145-foot cell tower.

The issue will come before the Select Board Monday night, Sept. 13 at 6 p.m.

“Late last month I was approached by James Belleau who represented U.S. Cellular concerning their request to place a cellular tower off of Vinal Street,” Duke said in materials for the Select Board meeting.

“This letter encapsulates his request to have the Select Board place an item on the November ballot to adjust the Land Use Ordinance to allow for additional locations within Rockport for wireless telecommunications.”

Bob Gashlin and the attorney, Belleau, represented U.S. Cellular at a Planning Board meeting in July, and were told the project was not allowed in the location proposed. At the time, they pitched in a pre-application meeting plans for a 150-foot-tall monopole cellular tower on a heavily wooded parcel between Vinal Street and Route 1.

Duke, however, raises concerns about the timing.

“As you know, state law does not allow questions to be added to a referendum ballot less than 60 days from an election,” he said. “Therefore, I do not believe the board has the authority to place this item on the ballot. However, I would recommend the Select Board forward this request to the Ordinance Review Committee for inclusion on their workplan for the coming year.”

A diagram of the proposed 150-foot-tall tower for Rockport.

He offered as a suggested motion: “I move the board deny the request from U.S. Cellular to place an article on the November ballot and refer the request to the Ordinance Review Committee for inclusion in their workplan.”

Belleau sent a letter Aug. 23 to the town, outlining the company’s proposed ordinance change. The proposal is considered a citizen request and petition from Kathleen Salminen Bailey, the owner of property that U.S. Cellular plans to lease in Rockport.

In July, Gashlin explained the tower is needed because coverage is spotty in the Route 90/17 area. He noted there are already towers on Ragged Mountain, two sites in Camden, two in Rockland, one in Warren and one on Route 1 in Rockport on the Camden border. This new one would address a hole in the coverage area.

According to the Planning Board, towers are only allowed under the ordinance if they are within 1,000 feet of the summit of Ragged Mountain, co-located on an existing facility, or placed on an existing structure to fit in with the surroundings architecturally. This project does not meet that standard.

The attorney cited the Federal Telecommunications Act, which does not allow municipalities to prohibit towers outright, though towns are allowed to regulate where towers are located.

Related Headlines