December 07, 2019
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Plan for 120-foot cellphone tower on Route 1 in Rockland worries neighbors

Lauren Abbate | BDN
Lauren Abbate | BDN
A plan for a cellphone tower on Route 1 in Rockland is causing worry among neighboring residents.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A Massachusetts-based communications company is seeking to construct a 120-foot tall cellphone and radio tower on Route 1 in Rockland.

But homeowners from a residential neighborhood that abuts the proposed site — Pen Bay Acres — worry about the negative impacts the tower could potentially have on property values.

“I grew up in that neighborhood. I’ve been there for a very long time,” Pen Bay Acres resident Tisha Gagnon told Rockland city councilors last week. “[The tower] is going to devalue my property, and you’re putting a burden on me by approving it.”

Bay Communications III LLC filed an application with the city in September for the 120-foot monopole, which it hopes to construct on an empty lot at 82 Camden St., which is also Route 1. The lot sits between Pizza Hut and an apartment complex.

Since the tower exceeds 75 feet, city approval is required. The Rockland Planning Board conducted its first review of the application last week and will hold a public hearing on the proposal in early December.

The tower would be used to transmit voice and data from radio stations and wireless internet companies. Bay Communications III LLC is a part of Northeast Wireless Networks LLC, which is affiliated with AT&T, according to the application.

If approved, the company plans to construct the tower on a 50-by-50-foot stone pad. The site would be surrounded by a 6-foot-tall chain-link and barbed-wire fence, according to the application.

In the past month, opposition to the project has been growing, specifically from residents of Pen Bay Acres.

“[The tower] would be burdensome for me, not only in that my home would be worth less and harder to sell, but I would also be able to see that tower [from my home] and it would be blocking my view of the bay,” Pen Bay Acres resident Jack Copp said. “It would be a blight for me and I’m sure other people.”

Per city ordinance, to grant a special-use permit, the planning board must consider if the project will be “detrimental or injurious” to the surrounding neighborhood, as well as if it includes appropriate fencing and screening to provide visual and auditory barrier from other properties.

The application from Bay Communications points out that the area of Route 1 where the project is proposed “is comprised largely of commercial businesses,” including Pizza Hut and a car dealership.

With Route 1 being the main road that residents and visitors travel on, Gagnon felt the location wasn’t right. “We have a beautiful town. We shouldn’t put something like that in the middle of our beautiful town,” she said.

Aside from the impacts on Route 1, Pen Bay Acres residents said their properties should be taken into consideration as well. The Pen Bay Acres neighborhood extends off of Route 1, behind where the tower would be built.

“I’m not anti-progress. I think a cell tower is fine, but it has to be situated in a proper area away from populated sections of town,” Copp said.

Several residents have also raised concerns about potential health impacts, however, the city’s attorney said these concerns cannot be taken into consideration per federal law.

The placement of communications towers is governed by the Federal Communications Act of 1996. The act includes provisions that are intended to supersede local ordinances and prohibits the denial of local permits for cell towers based on “perceived environmental” and health effects, according to a memo from Rockland City Attorney Mary Costigan.

The planning board will hold a public hearing on the application Dec. 3.



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