Cell tower company says clock running out on Rockland review

By Stephen Betts | Feb 14, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts A 120-foot tower is proposed for 182 Camden St.

Rockland — The company that wants to erect a 120-foot tall communication tower on Camden Street -- a proposal being met with strong opposition from neighbors -- is arguing that the Planning Board must make a decision next week.

Bay Communications III LLC and Northeast Wireless Communications also claim the tower does not need to meet conditions of a Rockland commercial overlay zone because the city failed to create a zoning map identifying the area covered by the zone.

These arguments are included in a letter to the city dated Jan. 31 to the Rockland Planning Board.

The Planning Board is scheduled to review the project at its Feb. 18 meeting that begins at 5:15 p.m. at City Hall.

The letter from Bay Communications was soon followed by the announcement by the city that it would hold a closed-door meeting of the Planning  Board and city staff to get legal advice.

The Board and staff met Feb. 12 with attorney James Katsiaficas of Perkins and Thompson of Portland because the city's regular attorney Mary Costigan had a perceived conflict of interest since her firm has done work with Bay Communication's lawyer, according to the city.

Katsiaficas practices environmental, land use, municipal, administrative, and real estate law.

Following the Feb. 12 executive session, Board Chairman Erik Laustsen said he had more questions than answers.

Bay Communications stated in its letter that the city failed to meet the "shot clock" regulation imposed by the Federal Communications Commission. The regulation, according to Bay Communications, requires a community to act on a wireless communications facilities application within 150 days of it being submitted.

Bay Communications filed its application with the city Sept. 9.

This means the city needed to act by Feb. 6, according to Bay Communications. The company said it would consent to extend that time until the Feb. 18 meeting.

"However, please be advised that neither Bay nor NEWN will consent to any further extensions of time of the shot clock," the letter concludes.

At the Jan. 7 meeting of the Planning Board, the city provided Bay Communications with a copy of the city's Commercial Corridor Overlay Zone which was approved in March 2015 by the City Council.

Bay Communication maintains the city's official zoning map, however, was not updated to reflect the zone change.

Bay Communications contends that the city's failure to revise the map means any of those zoning requirements would not apply to Bay Communications since its application meets the conditions set in the zoning map that existed when it filed the application.

City Manager Tom Luttrell said the city does not agree with Bay Communications contention.

The Planning Board postponed action on the project at its Jan. 7 meeting because of the commercial overlay zone issue as well as the city waiting for an appraisal it commissioned on whether a cell tower would reduce the value of neighboring homes is expected to be completed this week.

The city manager said he expects the appraisal to be provided to the city on Monday, Feb. 24.

The appraisal is being done Fred Bucklin of Bucklin Appraisal, LLC of Appleton.

Another issue is whether a cell tower is considered a structure under the city's definition of structure in city ordinances. Bay Communications contends that the tower does not meet the definition of a structure and thus does not have to meet regulations on structures.

Bay Communications III LLC wants to erect a 120-foot tall monopole-style communication cell tower at the lot adjacent to the south of Pizza Hut on Camden Street.

Neighbors have voiced strong opposition to the plan, citing concerns about health effects from such towers as well as reduced property values, and aesthetics.

Costigan, issued an opinion late last year that the city's 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.

The Bay Communications plan 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 plan was submitted in September.

The lot has been vacant for at least 20 years. Richard and Sherry Thacker of Brunswick received approvals in 2000 and 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 operated a small boarding house there. That house has since been demolished.

The cell tower will be the only item on the Feb. 18 meeting. A proposal by the Sail, Power and Steam Museum on Mechanic Street for a new 4,000-square-foot building will not be heard that evening. That project is tentatively scheduled to be heard at a meeting in mid-March.

Comments (8)
Posted by: Ananur Forma | Feb 16, 2020 20:26

Right now I have faith in the Planning Board.

Posted by: Kendra Ruth Dawson | Feb 15, 2020 19:24

People need to know given the history of the Rockland City Council,  that Rockland tax payers voice doesn’t have much sway in city government. The city council knows that they can do pretty much what they see fit for the city over a given period of time. Locals have seen this in past history.

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Feb 15, 2020 12:45

Hopefully this tower will be rejected by the zoning board as pressure from taxpayers persist. What is this Board thinking? Are they all from "AWAY"?

Posted by: Ananur Forma | Feb 15, 2020 07:39

what kind of democracy are we living in, where the people's wishes are ignored because FCC is a dictator and does not care about us or our health. shame shame shame on us for allowing a dictatorship to replace democracy which is golden. We must stand up all united to say what we want and don't want. This location is ridiculous, next to Shore Village apartments, Pen Bay Acres, shops, stores, and restaurants. wrong location. I have made suggestions for other locations., near by but they seem fixated on 182 Camden Street, next to Pizza Hut right smack dab on Rte. 1. Give me a break! The look of Rockland will be ugly and the very real potential to harm us is scary!!!!! Gerald do a little research and you will know why soooooooooo  many of us are deeply upset. I'm sure that once you do a little research you will understand....One more thing to research "Nobel prize winning scientists & other scientists sue FCC for ignoring all the research which proves cell towers to be hazardous to our health (and our beloved pets, animals, plants, soil, insects, & birds)

Posted by: Jack S Copp | Feb 14, 2020 19:26

Lies and the Lying Liars, Version 2. Bay Communications has said a lot of things. They say This tower is safe. But they are hiding behind old data from 1996 "when phones were as big as a shoe and used by few" Bill Clinton was in office and cell phones were used only for voice calls and a bit of texting. As any sensible person would agree, 24 years is a long time for any laws governing the safety of anything, much less something that has been proven harmful, to remain unchanged and unchallenged. And that's why today, thousands of peer-reviewed papers from all over the world that beg to differ with the infallible FCC and Bay Communications In fact, the crushing weight of evidence and proof available today showing that these towers are powerful and dangerous will convince even the most ardent skeptic. That's why the FCC and its apologist hacks are being sued.  Bay Communications says that this tower will not hurt our home and land values. Well, a 2014 survey published by The American Association of Realtors who, I might add, is the largest trade association in the USA and has over 1.4 million members, completely refutes the claim by Bay Communications and report by their attorney, that this tower will not negatively affect our property value. Google "Cell Towers Problematic for Buyers" and see for yourself. Up to 20% devaluation, less likely to sell, and buyers less likely to buy within several blocks of a tower. Then there is the "claim" by Bay Communications that they looked all over the area for a suitable site, even all the way up to Clam Cove and could not find one, and that's why they insisted on this site. Well, on January 7th, there was a site visit to 182 Camden Street by The Rockland Planning Board. Many residents attended, as I did. After the site visit was over and almost everyone had left, I was asking Vince Granese, the land acquisition guy for Bay Communications, some general questions. One of my questions was, "Why didn't you look up in Rockport, they have a lot of open land up there?" His response was, "Because they have the 1,000 foot rule."  So now we have Bay Communications saying they checked all the way up to Clam Cove, but Wait! that's in Rockport! So in effect they did NOT even consider it in the first place- A Lie. Then when a friend got concerned with the veracity of their other claims, one of which was that they approached every place around the area and no one was interested, including Fuller Chevrolet. My friend did a survey of their own and asked around Fuller to see if Bay Communications had contacted anyone about placing a tower there, and whatta ya know? No one was approached at Fuller by anyone at Bay Communications about anything like a tower! So let's review: They say it will be safe- Lie. They said it won't hurt our home values- Lie They said they checked in Rockport- Lie They said they asked Fuller Chevrolet- Lie. Get the idea? These examples just show that Bay Communications and their agents are NOT bargaining in good faith, have told untruths, and now can NOT be trusted in Anything they say. This is a group of professional Liars, plain and simple, and this tower in this location is being foisted on all of us!  The idea of a need for a telecommunications tower to cover this area hasn't been proven either! And really, at this point, their maps and diagrams are all suspect too. If we agree hereafter to take the word of these Lying Liars and the Lies they concoct, to hoodwink us and let this tower be built, we all, all of us should be ashamed. Please consider your homes, families, neighborhood and community and attend the Rockland Planning Board Meeting being held at Rockland City Hall 270 Pleasant street on this Tuesday February 18th at 5:15 pm. And let everyone know how you feel. Note if you can not make the meeting but want your words to be read at the meeting please Email Adam Ackor, Rockland Code Officer at: aackor@rocklandmaine.gov  and your comments Will be read during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | Feb 14, 2020 18:17

Acknowledging that cell phone towers have to go somewhere, and admitting to not knowing the details of this particular project, I have to ask:


Is this the best location for it? Has the developer demonstrated that no other site in Rockland - such as on top of a tall building on Main Street - is better than this location?

Posted by: ananur forma | Feb 14, 2020 16:32

Bay Communications attorney asked for the mtg. to be delayed that was in December his choice to do that. The date was changed to January, he extended the time frame, Mr. Springer, that is. Meanwhile this is interesting news, I know I know can't use health issues to reject a cell tower near homes, however there is danger and we know it. I sure hope a lot of people show up February 18th for this meeting!!! read this headline from a few days ago:

RFK, Jr. to Lead Historic Case Against U.S. Government for Wireless Harms Children’s Health Defense

(CHD) is leading a historic legal action against the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) for its refusal to review their 25 year old guidelines, and to promulgate scientific, human evidence-based radio frequency emissions (“RF”) rules that adequately protect public health from wireless technology radiation. The petition contends the agency’s actions are arbitrary and not evidence-based. The Petition was filed on 2/2/2020 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

CHD is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending the epidemic of children’s chronic health conditions. The organization recognizes that wireless technology radiation is a major contributing factor to the exponential increase in sickness among children.

Posted by: Robin Gabe | Feb 14, 2020 15:54

Looks like Bay Communications and it's lawyers are showing their bully face. Sure doesn't seem like a good deal for Rockland and it's residents. I plan to be at the planning board meeting on Tuesday.

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