Veazie to consider amended tower rules

Posted Nov. 14, 2010, at 7:38 p.m.

VEAZIE, Maine — Amendments to the town’s land use ordinance aimed at regulating telecommunications towers will be considered during a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday being conducted by the planning board.

The amendments were drafted in response to local concerns about the state’s plans to construct a 180-foot tower on Buck Hill. The tower would be a key link in the Maine State Communications Network, or MSCommNet, which aims to improve communication capabilities for first responders and emergency workers.

The plan proved unpopular with some residents, including homeowners on Buck Hill, where some of the town’s priciest real estate is located. The land where the tower would be located is owned by the Orono-Veazie Water District, which would lease it to the state for a monthly fee.

Among the biggest complaints from residents were the negative effect on property values, radiation and overall aesthetics, according to published reports.

In order to gain time to review its existing ordinance and address any shortcomings, including its lack of setbacks and height limits, the Town Council imposed a 180-day moratorium on such towers on March 1, Veazie Code Enforcement Officer Alan Thomas said Friday.

When that moratorium expired this summer, councilors imposed another one, which remains in effect until February 2011, he said.

An official from the state Office of Information Technology, however, says the amendments, if adopted, would “irreversibly impede the state’s ability to fully implement the Maine State Communications Network, which pursuant to federal law must be completed by the fall of 2012.”

In a Nov. 8 letter, Chief Information Officer Greg McNeal said the amendments would jeopardize a proposed statewide system that will serve as the primary source of communications for state police, game wardens, forest rangers, the marine patrol and other state agencies.

The system also will serve as a link between the state and local, federal and Canadian public safety agencies, McNeal said.

“Our review of the amendments, as proposed, would restrict most wireless communication facilities to the industrial zone between the interstate and Stillwater Avenue and to a maximum height of 195 feet. The amendments thus would foreclose the state from locating its planned tower on Buck Hill, which is the only viable option in the Veazie area for a tower to ensure complete statewide coverage.”

Tom Driscoll, outreach coordinator for the state technology office, said Friday that because of its central location, the Veazie tower is critical to the statewide communication program, which calls for 42 towers strategically placed throughout the state.

He said the state has worked closely with town officials and residents to address and mitigate concerns.

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