Veazie seeks to block state communications tower

Posted Feb. 17, 2010, at 10:52 p.m.

VEAZIE, Maine — Seizing on complaints from residents, town leaders are hoping to move fast to halt — at least temporarily — the state’s plans to erect a 180-foot communications tower in the area known as Buck Hill.

The state Office of Information Technology approached Veazie officials recently about putting up the tower, which is part of a statewide network that would overhaul radio communications, said Greg McNeal, chief technology officer for the state.

Once the news started to spread, some residents’ frustration grew.

“Most of the people in town that I’ve talked to aren’t happy about it,” Code Enforcement Officer Allen Thomas said Wednesday.

Buck Hill is north of Chase Road between Interstate 95 and Route 2, an area dominated by homes, including some newer subdivisions. The land where the tower would be located is owned by the Orono-Veazie Water District and would be leased to the state for a monthly fee.

The biggest complaints from residents were the negative effect on property values, radiation and overall aesthetics, Thomas said.

In an effort to pre-empt the state’s plans, the town has begun drafting a six-month moratorium on any towers in order to amend municipal ordinances. Thomas Russell, a Bangor lawyer and Veazie homeowner, said he has been approached to help draft the moratorium, which will be voted on early next month by town councilors.

“The town’s current ordinance doesn’t have any restrictions on setbacks or height,” he said. “The state would be getting a free pass.”

Joe Friedman, a town councilor, said he’s not sure how he would vote on a moratorium. Other councilors could not be reached for comment.

McNeal and Shawn Romanoski, director of radio communications for the state, said the Office of Information Technology has been working for many months on siting towers all over Maine and doesn’t want to start over. The new network is geared toward improving communications capabilities for all state employees, especially those in public safety.

“That location is good, and it’s in an area that has suffered from bad communication,” Romanoski said. “When we first approached [Veazie] the town was supportive. Partnering with local communities is very important to us.”

So far, a formal application has not been filed with the town. But McNeal said if the site doesn’t work, it could affect the location of other towers, which are being erected roughly 30 miles apart.

McNeal declined to comment on the moratorium, but said the state doesn’t want to go down that road if it doesn’t have to.

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