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Rockland neighbors oppose 120-foot communication tower

By Stephen Betts | Nov 05, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts Former Rockland Mayor Will Clayton spoke out Nov. 5 against the proposed communication tower.

Rockland — Opposition to a 120-foot communication tower on Camden Street is growing.

Neighbors turned out for both the Monday night Nov. 4 meeting of the Rockland City Council and the following night meeting of the Rockland Planning Board.

Bay Communications III LLC filed plans in September with the Rockland Code Enforcement Office to erect the 120-foot monopole at 182 Camden St. The Planning Board held its first review of the proposal at the Nov. 5 meeting.

A dozen people spoke out against the proposed tower.

Noel Oakes of Acadia Drive, which is part of the Pen Bay Acres residential neighborhood nearby to 182 Camden Street, voiced concern about the health impacts the tower could have on the nearby Pen Bay Christian School. He is a deacon at the Littlefield Memorial Baptist Church which operates the school.

"I beseech you, I implore you. Think about what can happen here," Oakes said.

Jack Copp of Olympic Avenue in Pen Bay Acres agreed.

"Don't make the children guinea pigs," Copp said.

Les Harvey, who owns the Shore Village Apartments, said he is responsible for the 16 tenants who live in the apartment complex that is located next to the lot. He said all the renters, some who have lived there for 30 years, are concerned.

Former Mayor Will Clayton also voiced opposition, saying it would devalue properties. He said if this tower was approved, he would seek an abatement on his property taxes. He said he spoken to multiple real estate agents who agree about the negative impact on property values.

Carol Timberlake of Acadia Drive said she and her husband bought their home five years ago to be near the ocean and a thriving community with businesses, restaurants, and special events. Timberlake said that Camden Street is the place where many people get the first impression of Rockland.

"This would be a terrible impression for anyone driving by including tourists who visit our community," Timberlake said.

Tisha Gagnon said she grew up in Pen Bay Acres and said that a tower that size should not be put in the middle of the town.

Kyle Swan said the tower would be an eyesore and a terrible use of a prime piece of property.

Code Officer John Root read a letter from the owners of Hong Kong Island restaurant on Waldo Avenue in which they argued a tower would be bad for their business.

Ananur Forma said at the Monday night meeting she was concerned about the radiation emitted from the tower. On Tuesday night, she said, however, that other issues -- such as how it would devalue neighboring properties -- can be considered.

Stephen Carroll said while he does not live near the proposed tower site, he urged the city to reject the tower. He said the federal government does not consider the best interests of local communities.

"Stop this encroachment on our neighborhoods," Carroll said.

The City Council, however, released a letter from its attorney Mary Costigan who advised the city that the Planning Board cannot consider environmental impacts including on health effects from radio frequency emissions. The attorney said the 1996 Federal Communications Act prohibits local communities from considering this issue.

Costigan said the review must be based on the local zoning ordinance.

Attorney Jonathan Springer of New Hampshire said the company wants to locate the tower at that site because the tower has a limited range and there are many people in the area.

The attorney for Bay Communications spoke about 90 minutes after the public spoke and said he wanted to hold off on detailed responses to the public concerns until the formal public hearing. He pointed out that most of the public had left and he wanted to have them in attendance when he answered their concerns.

The public hearing had originally been scheduled for Nov. 19 but because of the number of items on that agenda, the Board agreed to hold the public hearing on Dec. 3.

The tower will be 30 feet from the nearest residential property.

He also disputed claims by opponents that a tower will impact their property values. Granese said the company looked at many other sites but there was no interest from those property owners.

The three-quarter-acre lot where the tower is planned is owned by RT Properties of Topsham. The property is abutted by Pizza Hut to the north and an apartment complex to the south and west.

The lot has been vacant for at least 20 years. Richard and Sherry Thacker of Brunswick had received approvals in 2000 and again in 2005 to build an Arby's Restaurant on the property. The couple never moved ahead with that project.

The Thackers bought the property in 1999 from Agnes Firth, who had operated a small boarding house there. That house has since been demolished.

The plan submitted by Bay Communications calls for a 6-foot chain-link fence with barbed wire around the base of the tower, which would sit on a 50-by-50-foot clean stone tower pad.

The tower could be erected within eight weeks of city approval.

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Comments (3)
Posted by: Ananur Forma | Nov 07, 2019 08:06

Inviting all to come December 3 to planning board mtg. at 5:15pm to state concerns about this proposed radiation cell phone tower 120 ft. high to be build 30 ft. from neighbors in Pen Bay Acres and across the street from Woodlands Alzheimers unit. Plus Shore Village Apartments.We need to pack the room to stop this. The company is dead set on Rockland having these sort of towers. but on Rte. 1 so ugly and does not fit with the plan for Rockland, not is it safe as Steve Carroll mentioned for anyone in Rockland. I know we have them on Main Street roof tops and the fire house...but they are NOT 120 ft. high and closely abutting neighbor's homes. If you Google health issues cell phone towers there is plenty of evidence that this is a dangerous idea for us. There are of course those who disagree, why take a chance? We are not allowed to use health concerns to reject this proposal so says city lawyer and FCC 1996 law. Our government is quickly creeping us into the land of cancer for all.

again please come to the mtg. Dec. 3 at 5:15pm to reject this proposal. We need your support with this.

Posted by: Barry Douglas Morse | Nov 06, 2019 12:13

Maybe not *the* solution in this case, but here's an idea: Lose the 6-foot high prison fence, install the mast, add a boom, sail, and appropriate rigging.  Install a 3'6" tall aluminum or wrought iron picket fence encircling the entire thing and the whole installation could be attractive. The sail need not be actual sail material (noisy on windy days) but instead rigid, helical slats of some kind to suggest the shape of a sail, and designed so the sail and boom could rotate with the prevailing winds. Three or four slats might be enough to convey the idea of a ship's sail. The 50'x50' concrete pad could also be designed to suggest a schooner or other large vessel (or not).

I'll mention that I can't imagine why, with 3/4 of an acre of property available, the tower would be located within 30  feet of a property line, as was mentioned above. The tower and its guy wires will sing in a high wind.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Nov 06, 2019 08:15

I was pleased so many people attended the planning board meeting.  Noticable were those that did not attend.  Representatives from the Federal government.  The same people that brought you the South Dakota pipe pine, fracking and off shore oil drilling.  The property owners desparate to sell, who would place a chemical plant there if they could  and of course our city attorney that lives in Portland.  Our neighbors most affected by this must once again bear the burden.  This is our community and no matter where this tower is placed, it will effect us all.

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