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Federal court sides with cell tower company in Rockland lawsuit

Judge rules Planning Board has no legal role in lawsuit
By Stephen Betts | Apr 26, 2021
Photo by: Stephen Betts This is where a cell tower on 182 Camden St. in Rockland is proposed to be erected.

Rockland — The Rockland Planning Board's effort to block a settlement between the city and a cell tower company has failed.

U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker ruled April 26 that the Planning Board is dismissed from the lawsuit, as are its motions to intervene. The federal judge agreed to an amended settlement between Bay Communications III and Rockland that allows for the lawsuit to be settled without the approval of the Planning Board.

The ruling means Bay Communications can erect a cell tower on Camden Street in the vacant lot adjacent to Pizza Hut.

"The Planning Board members’ steadfast adherence to their oaths and their umbrage at the City Council’s and legal counsel’s contumely is appreciable, though ultimately Quixotic," Judge Walker ruled.

"In the first and effectively last analysis, the Planning Board has no standing to undermine the City’s settlement with Bay Communications III because the Planning Board is, at most, a nominal party in this action, lacking standing to sue or be sued and unnecessary to achieving full and final relief."

Bay Communications agreed to drop its request for Rockland to be found in contempt of the earlier court settlement approved by the Rockland City Council.

Planning Board Chair Erik Laustsen expressed disappointment with the ruling.

"This is a huge disappointment for me, the Planning Board, the city's ordinances, and ultimately the citizens of Rockland," Laustsen said.

The Planning Board rejected Bay Communications' proposal in February 2020.

Bay Communications appealed that rejection to federal court.

The City Council settled the federal lawsuit in November 2020 but one of the conditions of the settlement was that the Planning Board approve the project. The Planning Board, which was not consulted on the case by the Council or the city's attorneys, has refused to approve the project.

The Planning Board hired its own attorney and had asked the federal court to throw out the settlement reached between the City Council and Bay Communications. The Planning Board had argued the project did not meet city ordinances.

Those items that the project was deficient, according to the Planning Board, included no provision for the construction of a sidewalk, ruling the fall zone was less than the height of the tower, the proposed screening and buffering did not provide adequate protection to neighboring properties from detrimental features of the development, and the site plan failed to solve the soil and drainage problems, and that the proposed tower would violate the 10-foot maximum setback requirement in the Commercial Corridor Overlay Zone.

The City Council asked the court to bypass the Planning Board.

The Rockland code office has held a building permit for the tower until the city gave the go-ahead to issue it. That is likely to be issued with the federal ruling.

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Comments (9)
Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Apr 28, 2021 08:17

Think you are absolutely correct Crawford.  Simply put a wind turbine on top and residents would welcome it with open arms.  Sprinkle a bank of solar panels at the base and surely we would get a federal environmental grant.  Perception is reality

Posted by: Daniel Purdy | Apr 27, 2021 14:11

I assume that the individual members of the Planning Board will be paying their attorney. They had zero legal standing so were just wasting time and money.

Posted by: James Bowers | Apr 27, 2021 12:04

The Planning Board did the right thing and the courts so much as said so. The Planning Board had no authority to sign an agreement, flawed or not, between the City Council and the applicant. The tower could have been placed elsewhere AND there already is a cell tower in town so any argument that states the City is restricting all cell towers is incorrect. This is all very sad the way it has played out.

Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Apr 27, 2021 10:19

Since it is going to be there anyway, why not put some fan blades on top and have it double as a windmill?

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Apr 27, 2021 07:51

The house always wins.  This has been know right along by the City and by their attorney's and even by the planning boards legal counsel who of course was more than willing to take their money knowing full well they would loose the case.  The City has in effect thrown the Planning board under the bus and are now no more than a cast of characters with no lines in the play.  Now everyone knows a planning board decision carries no weigh and they will need to live with that sad reality going forward..  These good people should simply all resign and let the City cast a new set of players more willing to do their bidding.  And what part did our representatives in Washington play ?  None... none at all.  Hopefully we will all remember come election day, thought I am sure we will not.

Posted by: ANANUR FORMA | Apr 27, 2021 07:13

Learning about protection from radiation is where my mind is and will continue to learn about. Copper is supposed to help.

Truly nowhere to move to, cell towers, etc. etc. are everywhere even in Bulgaria. Have done extensive research about 5G and cell towers, etc. world wide. They seem to pop up (our Main Street) without a word nowadays, thinking now of  the Stella Marris building.

Why is it there, when there is one across the street at the fire house?

Have read that..." if you live within 1 - 2 miles from a cell tower that your health is at risk."

Wondering about people on Rankin Street and those within 1-2 mile radius. how is your health? Hoping you're all ok....  !!!!! Of course, I'm worrying about us over here next to Pizza Hut and all the people and businesses here and within 1-2 miles which stretches into Rockport,  There already is one behind Fresh off the Farm, if you haven't noticed? yikes!

Posted by: ANANUR FORMA | Apr 26, 2021 15:43

too sad to speak right now.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Apr 26, 2021 14:13

It's only a disappointment for those concerned about the tower.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Apr 26, 2021 13:45

Sad that it had to come to this. There are so many dedicated people on both the city council and the planning board. Praying they will put this behind them as they move forward together.

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