January 23

Starks board rejects appeal of cell tower decision

Planning board made no error in decision to approve an application from Bay Communications for Abijah Hill Road.

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

STARKS — The appeals board upheld a decision that allows a controversial cellphone tower on Abijah Hill Road.

The board Thursday night rejected an appeal filed by opponents of the tower, and ruled the Planning Board followed proper procedure in allowing it.

After more than two hours of discussion, the board voted 3-1 to reject the appeal. The tower, a project of Boston-based Bay Communications II LLC, was approved by the planning board on Sept. 4 and the appeal was submitted later that month by Cindy and Harry Brown, who live near the proposed site of the tower.

“I can’t see that the planning board erred in making their decision or went against anything in the town ordinance,” said Linwood Locke, a member of the appeals board who made a motion that the appeal be denied.

The appeal contained a list of 19 points of opposition the Browns had to the tower, including statements that the original application for the tower was accepted by the board as incomplete and that there were necessary components missing from the application like failure to assess the impact of travel during mud season.

The appeal also alleged bias in the review process, saying the board rushed through the review of the application and claiming there was inadequate opportunity for opponents to prepare and present their objections.

The board determined Thursday night that four out of the 19 items in the appeal were out of their jurisdiction and that the others were not valid grounds for appeal. The four items it said was out of its jurisdiction were that there was bias in the review process, the planning board had rushed through the application, that the tower would have a negative impact on property values and that health effects of the tower were not taken into consideration.

The meeting was the latest in a series of delays the Boston company has faced in their plan to build a tower in Starks.

An application for the construction was originally submitted in June and the project has been controversial since then. The Browns have been vocal about their opposition to the project since the start and have organized opposition meetings, including a meeting to discuss the health effects of cellphone towers, something that municipalities are prohibited from taking into consideration by federal law.

In August, Cindy Brown allegedly spit on First Selectman Paul Frederic outside a planning board meeting where the tower was being discussed and was charged with assault following the incident. The case is scheduled to go to trial next month.

The Browns also tried to have a moratorium on cellphone towers passed but the effort failed and the planning board approved the building application shortly after.

According to the company’s application, the tower would be 195 feet tall and would be built on Abijah Hill Road. It would initially provide cellphone coverage through provider AT&T Wireless, but has the capacity to collect up to five additional carriers.

The Browns still have the opportunity to submit their appeal to the state Supreme Court before a building permit is granted for the tower.

Rachel Ohm— 612-2368 rohm@centralmaine.com
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