Company sues Rockland over cell tower denial

By Stephen Betts | Mar 18, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts The proposed 120-foot communication tower is proposed for 182 Camden St., adjacent to Pizza Hut.

Rockland — A company that was denied permission to erect a 120-foot cellular communication tower on Camden Street has filed a federal lawsuit against Rockland.

Bay Communications III, LLC filed the lawsuit Tuesday, March 17 in U.S. District Court in Portland. The company is asking the court to order Rockland to approve the cell tower project.

Court records show the city was served notice of the lawsuit March 17.

The Rockland Planning Board voted against the project at its Feb. 18 meeting, a proposal that had been opposed by many Rockland residents who said it would reduce their property values, be an aesthetic nightmare, and pose health risks.

In the lawsuit, the company's lawyers argued that federal law calls for national policy to “make available, so far as possible, to all people of the United States, without discrimination . . . a rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges, for the purpose of national defense, [and] for the purpose of promoting safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communications.”

Bay Communications seeks to have the tower erected on a commercial lot at 182 Camden St. next to Pizza Hut. The lot is adjacent to the Pen Bay Acres neighborhood and the Shore Village housing complex.

The results of a radio frequency propagation study revealed a significant gap in wireless service coverage along the heavily developed corridor of U.S. Route 1 in the vicinity of 182 Camden Street. To remedy that significant gap in service, an additional cell site in Rockland is required, the company states in its lawsuit.

The communications company submitted its application Sept. 9.

The company said that there has been no written order yet from the Rockland Planning Board and its denial is not based on any written evidence.

The Planning Board ruled that the application did not adhere to a commercial overlay zone approved by the City Council in 2015. Bay Communications argued that this overlay zone did not apply.

At the Feb. 8 meeting, an appraiser hired by the city concluded that property values are not harmed by having a communication tower located next to them.

The Planning Board and staff held a closed-door meeting 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 did work with Bay Communication's lawyer, according to the city.

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

Costigan issued an opinion late last year that the city's Planning Board cannot consider environmental impacts, including 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 2019.

The lot has been vacant for at least 20 years. Richard and Sherry Thacker of Brunswick received approvals in 2000 and 2005 to build an Arby's Restaurant on the property.

The couple never moved ahead with the project.

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

Bay Communications is represented by attorney Kellie Fisher and David Kallin of Portland, and Wayne Dennison of Boston.

Comments (6)
Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Mar 18, 2020 16:53

All the residents in the Acres and surrounding area could chip in and buy the property.



Posted by: ananur forma | Mar 18, 2020 09:11

who would like to buy this property? I did ask 2 wealthy business people months ago. Could be a good site for someone.



Posted by: ananur forma | Mar 18, 2020 07:52

I mean emotionally upset, not physically sick.



Posted by: ananur forma | Mar 18, 2020 07:51

I feel sick.



Posted by: John Snow | Mar 18, 2020 07:37

I sat on the Board of Appeals for South Thomaston several years ago, when a tower was proposed and initially turned down by the Planning Board.  I can't remember who the cell tower company was, but they brought it to the Board of Appeals. We did some research and found out that 3-4 towns in Massachusetts had refused the towers, but upon going to court the towns were overruled by a judge and the towers were constructed. The language in the Federal Communications Act about "national defense" proved sovereign.  I asked the cell tower lawyer if this was therefore just a sham proceeding, and he replied that they wished to be good neighbors by going through local procedures. I'm surprised that Bay Communications isn't going to the Board of Appeals before going to court.

Good luck, Rockland, I don't think you can win this one. Unless the P&S Agreement (or lease) is airtight, someone with deep pockets should step up and buy the property from the Thackers



Posted by: John Snow | Mar 18, 2020 07:34

I sat on the Board of Appeals for South Thomaston several years ago, when a tower was proposed and initially turned down by the Planning Board.  I can't remember who the cell tower company was, but they brought it to the Board of Appeals. We did some research and found out that 3-4 towns in Massachusetts had refused the towers, but upon going to court the towns were overruled by a judge and the towers were constructed. The language in the Federal Communications Act about "national defense" proved sovereign.  I asked the cell tower lawyer if this was therefore just a sham proceeding, and he replied that they wished to be good neighbors by going through local procedures. I'm surprised that Bay Communications isn't going to the Board of Appeals before going to court.

Good luck, Rockland, I don't think you can win this one. Unless the P&S Agreement (or lease) is airtight, someone with deep pockets should step up and buy the property from the Thackers



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