Councilor proposes law to limit cell towers in Rockland

By Stephen Betts | Jan 07, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts Councilor Valli Geiger, right, is proposing a zone change to restrict where cell towers can be erected. Councilor Ed Glaser is pictured to the left.

Rockland — Councilor Valli Geiger has proposed a city law to significantly restrict where cell towers can be located.

The City Council will consider the proposal at its Monday, Jan. 13 meeting.

The ordinance would have no impact on the 120-foot cellular communication tower being proposed for Camden Street. The Rockland Planning Board is scheduled to review that project at its Tuesday evening, Jan. 7 meeting.

The Board meeting begins at 5:15 p.m., preceded by a 3:30 p.m. tour of the 182 Camden St. site by the Planning Board members.

The proposed ordinance change by Geiger would limit cell towers to 100 feet tall. The law would prohibit cell towers in residential zones and within 1,000 feet of residential or transitional business zones.

Geiger said she understand the city cannot ban cell towers out of health concerns. Federal law prohibits health issues to be considered when municipalities are reviewing cell towers.

But, she said, aesthetics can be considered.

"We want to be sure not to create an aesthetic nightmare in Rockland," Geiger said.

City Attorney Mary Costigan advised councilors that the law could not prohibit the towers in a community.

Bay Communications III LLC wants to erect a monopole-style tower at the lot adjacent to the south of Pizza Hut.

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 company would lease the back of the vacant lot from RT Properties, LLC of Topsham.

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.

At the Planning Board's first review of the proposal on Nov. 5, numerous neighbors turned out to voice opposition to the project. The opposition centered on their contention that it would devalue their properties and be ugly at a main entrance to the community.

Others have raised concern about the health impact from having a cell tower so close to where people live or attend school. The city's attorney Costigan, however, issued an opinion that the city 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.

Attorney Jonathan Springer of New Hampshire, who represents Bay Communications, denied at the Nov. 5 meeting that the tower would devalue properties. He also said the company considered other sites but were unable to find an alternate location.

Comments (4)
Posted by: James Bowers | Jan 07, 2020 21:56

Considered alternate locations? Demand proof. Applicants often use that phrase and all too often that is accepted with absolutely no proof.

Posted by: Ananur Forma | Jan 07, 2020 14:31

Thanks to Valli we may be protected? not sure everything is happening so fast. If anyone were to look at the telephone poles day after day they would see what I now am seeing. Padded utility poles prepping for dangerously high  ampage 5G.

We need standards of what is permitted here. If not..........we will be steam rollered into something we do NOT want.

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jan 07, 2020 12:50

A-Men Carol for the common sense given to a troublesome Health problem being surrounded by residents. Common sense tells one that people will not buy property or build homes anywhere near a cell tower.

Posted by: Ananur Forma | Jan 07, 2020 09:32

Attorney Jonathan Springer at the November 5th mtg. was expressing his personal opinion when he stated,"the tower would not devalue properties." There has been research done across the country that says by realtors, expect 10 - 20% devaluation. if someone has a choice of 5 properties in their price range and one is close to a cell tower, duh common sense says they would not chose it.

I applaud the City Ccuncil for taking action to look into this serious issue to protect Rockland's residents. Thank you Valli.

At this point in my opinion Arby's would be welcomed with open arms rather than a 120 ft plus cell tower emitting radiation. Since Bay Communications is going to lease the property I wish I could BUY it or call Thacker (he has not answered my calls to him) and talk with him and invite him to "try again to get Arby's placed on his property, or let me help him find a buyer for his lot. A friend is interested in raising money to buy it. Wouldn't that be nice? I can hear the Beach Boys singing now..........

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