Neighbors concerned about lights, height, environmental and health effects

Rockland Planning Board continues review of proposed 120-foot communications pole

Thu, 01/02/2020 - 6:45pm

Story Location:
182 Camden Street
Rockland  Maine
United States

ROCKLAND — The Rockland Planning Board will continue its consideration of an application from a Massachusetts business to site a 120-foot communications pole, topped with a 4-foot lightning rod, at 182 Camden Street, near Pen Bay Acres subdivision and on the Route 1 commercial corridor. 
The board is to make a site walk of the proposed location Tuesday, Jan. 7, at 3:30 p.m., followed by a full meeting at the Rockland City Hall Council Chambers at 5:15 p.m.
The $150,000 monopole cell tower is sited for a lot currently owned by RT Properties LLC, whose address is at the Topsham Mall, in Topsham. The parcel abuts land on which Pizza Hut sits.
The proposed project by Bay Communications III LLC, based in Mansfield, Massachusetts, to erect the tower at the rear of the .8-acre property has not been well received by many of the commercial and residential neighbors who populate the area. 
Following the application’s submission last fall, the Planning Board has received a number of letters asking the board to consider the negative impact the cellphone tower might have on the area.
In a memo from City Attorney Mary Costigan to the Planning Board, Costigan said that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits the denial of communications towers based upon environmental effects, including health effects, of radio frequency emissions.
During a Dec. 16, 2019 Rockland City Council meeting, Councilor Valli Geiger said: “Indeed, I will be bringing forward, in January, an ordinance to add additional conditions for any further cell tower conversation to the City. I don’t know that we can do anything about the one being proposed for Camden Street. I think that’s up to the Planning Board. But it did help me at least realize that we don’t have enough conditions in our ordinance to allow the Planning Board to take a broader view of that. As we all know, we cannot include health as part of one of those reasons, but I think we can include some other factors.”
Other concerns by Rockland neighbors include having a structure towering over their houses, the brightness of the lights on top of the pole, and the unattractiveness of the tower and the chainlink fence that would surround the property. 
One resident said Camden made an extra effort to keep towers visually unobtrusive.
With the Rockland proposed pole, the cell company’s objective is to reach internet users in the area, but to do so, must be close to customers for adequate transmission. 
“Accordingly, to have a viable cell site, a structure and its location must be sufficiently elevated to send and receive signals, as well as close enough to the coverage objective and other sites to have a properly functioning network,” the application filed at City Hall said.
One neighbor questioned how strong winds might affect a monopole that is not tethered or held in place by support structures.
Bay Communication wrote in its application that, “in the extremely unlikely event of a tower failure, the monopole will not ‘fall over,’ but would rather ‘buckle’’ which means that the monopole will simply assume a bend position....The way this is achieved, in essence, is by ‘over-engineering’ or ‘over-strengthening’ the portion of the monopole, up to the desired height, so that in the event of an extreme wind or ice event, the ‘failure point’ would be where the ‘over-engineering’ stops.” 
In 2012, U.S. Cellular submitted an application to construct a 100-foot “flagpole” communications tower at 189 Maverick Street, fenced in and within a wooded area, yet not completely buffered, on property owned by Rockland Golf Course, Inc.
That application was denied because it didn’t meet a conditional use: “does not adequately provide landscaping for a large part of the year and did not constitute compatibility with the area.”

The proposal comes under the applicant named Bay Communication LLC, through another LLC entitled Northeast Wireless Networks (NEWN) LLC and which is affiliated with AT&T, according to the application filed Rockland City Hall.

The monopole is to for the transmission of voice and data of radio stations and wireless internet companies. 

The tower is to extend 120 feet above the ground, with a four-foot lightning rod attached to its top. 

Antennas are designed to be above the top half of the pole, and connected via cables running to an equipment cabinet located within a 50-foot by 50-foot leased area at the base of the tower.

That area would be surrounded by a six-foot tall chain link fence topped with three strands of barbed wire, to “secure the compound,” the application said.

The application noted the commercial nature of Route 1 as well as a residential neighborhood and more homes, “as one moves up the steep Ridgeline to the west-northwest of the site.”