Tower planned for Route 1 in Rockland worries neighbor

By Stephen Betts | Oct 28, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts A 120-foot tall communications tower is proposed to be erected on this vacant lot on Camden Street in Rockland.

Rockland — A proposed 120-foot communication tower on Route 1 in Rockland is generating concern from at least one neighbor.

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 is scheduled to review the proposal at its Nov. 5 meeting with a formal public hearing scheduled for Nov. 19.

The three-quarter-acre lot 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.

Code Officer John Root said the existing ordinance allows a communication tower in this zone. He notified the City Council last month about the proposal.

One neighbor is organizing an effort to stop the tower.

Ananur Forma of Acadia Drive questioned in an email how a communication tower could be allowed to be erected so close to residences.

"How can it be legal to put up a cell phone tower on Route 1 so visible and next to so many human beings and a full neighborhood right behind it?" Forma asked. "Have to figure out to to protect all of us....not just me me me  actually as I think about it I cannot imagine the citizens of Rockland allowing this."

State Sen David Miramant, D-Camden, responded to Forma in an email on Sunday, Oct. 27.

"The bad news is that when the towers started rolling out, the industry could see that there would be push back on locating them. The FCC passed laws that make keeping them out of areas difficult. The municipalities can establish preferred areas and make rules around the locations but can't specifically prohibit them," Miramant stated.

"I hope there is something I don't know about that will come to light. They are going to start rolling out 5G now and while those antennas will be smaller there will be more of them and there is a question about radiation safety," the state senator stated.

Root said that type of tower would look more like a tall light pole, rather than a communications tower.

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.

Comments (11)
Posted by: Valli Genevieve Geiger | Oct 31, 2019 16:43

Mr. Hayward, City Council has no say about whether this cell tower goes on Camden St. or not. It is what is called a "conditional use" for a Commercial Zone. As a Conditional Use it goes before the Planning Board, who will take public comment and current ordinances and zone regulations to decide whether or not to approve this application. City Council does not come into it. Interestingly, federal law does not allow a city to forbid a cell tower for health reasons. Like you, I do not think this is the best and highest use of that piece of property, but that is just my opinion. It is a conditional use for the zone, for better or worse.

Amy, when the Zoning changes about Camden Street went before City Council, I think we were both on the Comprehensive Planning Commission. No current councilor was part of that discussion or vote. My memory is hazy, but I think the recommended changes were approved by the council at that time. But the city can only create conditions. In a time when retail is really struggling and building costs are through the roof, it is difficult to attract large scale developers for Camden Street. The city is still trying to work with the state to create the planned road changes with side walks on both sides and green median and bike paths.

Valli Geiger

Rockland City Council



Posted by: Ananur Forma | Oct 31, 2019 14:18

I am hopeful that this proposal will NOT go through...my research shows so many reasons to reject this idea.



Posted by: Dale Hayward | Oct 30, 2019 18:11

Paul: Genius, too bad code enforcement missed this one, oh well, another treat for the planning board and the council to make some zoning changes. hip,hip,hooray. Maybe Pizza Hut could use the energy for cooking, pleasant thought eh?

 



Posted by: Paul Kieper | Oct 30, 2019 00:52

Ananur - That's correct. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Section 704) does prevent state and local governments from restricting "the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission's regulations concerning such emissions." However, there is a case to be made regarding the height of the structure and it's incompatibility with the area. That parcel is zoned as Commercial 2 ("C2"), which allows for a maximum building height of 35 ft. A 120-ft tower would require a height exception to be approved by the Planning Board. Since the proposed tower is more than 75 ft the project has to go through a Site Plan Review process. One of the reasons a site plan might not be approved is "the proposed use and layout will be of such size or character that it will not be consistent with the appropriate and orderly development of the surrounding area" (Sec. 16-204 of the Rockland Code). A 120-ft tower could be considered not consistent with a surrounding area of low-rise commercial and residential buildings. Frankly, I think you'd be hard pressed to identify any site along Route 1 in Rockland where a structure of that height would be compatible with the area. The tallest building in Rockland is 250 Main Hotel, with a roofline of 57-ft. The proposed tower would be over twice that height.



Posted by: Ananur Forma | Oct 28, 2019 22:13

Oh thanks Steve, I did not know we have the option to speak at the podium Nov. 5th and I believe it's 5;15pm? not 5:30pm From what I've read in research we cannot mention the health issues that are potential due to an FCC law passed in 1996. power for "the corp." eh? However, the people have the real power if we join together and speak out. I hope realtors will come and state the fact that our property value WILL go down and who knows about our health which we cannot speak about as there is "no conclusive proof," of what we suspect. Who in their right mind will buy near a 120 ft (plus) cell phone tower? Would you? Also do they make sounds like humming or pulsing one of my neighbors is wondering. I have spoken to most everyone today in my neighborhood and they were shocked and alarmed at this proposal so close to a neighborhood of 100 homes plus...... the new Habitat for Humanity site being built on Philbrook Street, AND the apartment building next to the site called, Shore Village. I spoke with some of them today and they did NOT know. They were very grateful to be informed. Don't forget the cell tower will be disguised as a flagpole.



Posted by: Amy Files | Oct 28, 2019 17:14

It's too bad that the City, volunteers and residents spent a good amount of time in developing the Camden Street Plan -- but it was never adopted by the City Council (only one or two of which are current). I don't know if it would have prevented this but it certainly would not have been in the spirit of the plan's vision which was to create a more walkable, street-friendly neighborhood and better connect the residential neighborhoods on this side of town to the downtown area. This is the kind of development that happens when we don't have thoughtful rules and regulations in place to protect our neighborhoods and the economic viability of businesses that will benefit our City. Having a tower like this isn't only a concern for residential neighborhoods but also for any businesses we may want to attract to that area.



Posted by: Amy Files | Oct 28, 2019 17:14

It's too bad that the City, volunteers and residents spent a good amount of time in developing the Camden Street Plan -- but it was never adopted by the City Council (only one or two of which are current). I don't know if it would have prevented this but it certainly would not have been in the spirit of the plan's vision which was to create a more walkable, street-friendly neighborhood and better connect the residential neighborhoods on this side of town to the downtown area. This is the kind of development that happens when we don't have thoughtful rules and regulations in place to protect our neighborhoods and the economic viability of businesses that will benefit our City. Having a tower like this isn't only a concern for residential neighborhoods but also for any businesses we may want to attract to that area.



Posted by: Dale Hayward | Oct 28, 2019 16:30

The only flag pole in existence with concrete 50 feet square and barbed wire and mostly like armed guards to protect that out of town money. Most likely there will be a ceremony with ribbon cutting, free slices of pizza, raffle tickets for a Cadillac, and free discounts at Goodwill to show how much support from their neighbors, not counting any humans that live nearby.

 



Posted by: Dale Hayward | Oct 28, 2019 16:25

Do not expect the city council to listen, look what they have done and undone and redone and will do again in the issue of small houses and stuffing them in every corner of this city. This tower will bring thousands and thousands of dollars in taxes (NOT)and will look very much in keeping with the neighborhood (NOT) and will provide proof that there is absolutely no health risk  to human, whales, lobsters, trucks, airplanes, or anything else that moves. (NOT) This is a money venture for out of town people, again, and again. Money talks, conscious walks. This council has done everything to create new zoning apart from the comprehensive plan and changed the way this city runs, looks, and acts, the way it has lost respect and the creating of one of if not the most taxed town in Maine.

 



Posted by: Stephen Betts | Oct 28, 2019 14:05

The public can speak about the tower issue at the Nov. 5 meeting.

The formal public hearing, however, is Nov. 19, but anyone can speak at the Nov. 5 meeting as well.



Posted by: Ananur Forma | Oct 28, 2019 13:57

so they will disguise it to look like a flagpole, they must think we are awfully dumb. 120 ft. high on a base of 50x50 making it even higher?  If a cell phone tower goes up, our property values goes downnnnnnn, I was told by a realtor. Seems obvious. Also, this is hazardous to our health for all who live within a mile, is what my research has shown. All who have pacemakers would be most vulnerable and anyone who has a weak immune system from chemo also vulnerable. I feel very protective of my neighbors. I have been walking and speaking with my neighbors in Pen Bay Acres for hours, have not even eaten yet lunch or breakfast. Those with love and concern will not allow this to happen. Come to the meeting at City Hall Nov. 5th at 5:30 pm to show the power of the people to make an impact. We cannot speak up then, yet power in numbers matters, as you know. I don't have facebook, if you are reading this please post it on facebook and tell "everyone" to show up at the meeting Nov. 5th which is Voting Day, not the ideal date for a meeting, I say..........



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