ROCKPORT — Despite much discussion and concerns raised by neighbors of the project, there was not much the Planning Board could do to regulate the proposed 150-foot U.S. Cellular tower project.

The board voted unanimously Thursday, Sept. 22 to approve the tower application brought by KJK Wireless.

The tower is planned for construction off Vinal Street on property owned by Kathleen Salminen Bailey. The project was before the board for final application in site plan review.

Lucie Bauer and Annie Kiermaier, who own property abutting the proposed tower site, sent letters to town officials expressing concern about what affect the tower might have on people’s health. They came out in opposition of the changes to the town’s land use ordinance made to make the tower project possible.

At one point during the debate over the issue in the past year, an opponent argued that West Rockport should not become the dumping ground for any unsightly development, referring to the targeting of the town’s rural districts rather than coastal and village areas.

However, when it comes to telecommunications tower projects, the town’s hands are somewhat tied. Attorney Philip Saucier of Bernstein Shur advised the Planning Board that it could not consider health concerns under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as long as the tower’s emissions will be within the permissible range set by the FCC.

The Planning Board did spend a lot of time in conversation on the project spread over multiple meetings. The board did require year-round visual screening of the base of the project in perpetuity.

The tower will be set on a 2,500-square-foot, fenced-in compound on a 25-acre parcel of land.

In March, Bob Hall and Richard Remsen of the town’s ordinance committee met with the board to discuss proposed changes to the town’s ordinance that would allow cell towers in the rural districts. Hall said that towns that try to block towers from coming to the community by zoning them out end up wasting money in court and they lose the cases.

A similar controversy had taken place in neighboring Rockland over a cell tower to be built off Camden Street. During that argument, Rockland City Attorney Mary Costigan advised Rockland’s Planning Board in the same way that it could not consider potential health impacts from a cell tower.

Materials included with the application show that the tower will be visible from the intersection of Routes 17 and 90, looking southeast.

Bob Gashlin and attorney Jamie Belleau, representing U.S. Cellular, first came before the Planning Board on July 22, 2021. At that time they noted the tower is needed to improve cell service in that area.

Bob Gashlin, right, and attorney Jamie Belleau represent U.S. Cellular before the Rockport Planning Board July 22, 2021.