STARKS — Voters rejected a moratorium that would have delayed the construction of a cellphone tower of Abijah Hill Road and selectmen said the town will benefit in the long run.

“I think the town did the right thing. I think people realize the need for good technology and that our town doesn’t have that. It looks like we will be getting a cellphone tower and hopefully that will help,” Seccond Selectman Joseph Miller said following Thursday’s special town meeting.

Residents voted 86–41 to reject a proposal that would have delayed the decision on an application for a new wireless telecommunications tower until the town could look into health ramifications. The Planning Board has het to approve the application by Bay Communications for the tower.

Residents Thursday night debated the costs and benefits of delaying a decision on the cellphone tower or having one at all before the vote.

Presented by 38 citizens in July, the proposal would potentially have delayed the review of an application for a cellphone tower by Massachusetts-based Bay Comunications II LLC, which has said it plans to lease the tower to AT&T and eventually other carriers. The application has drawn particular controversy from residents on Abijah Hill Road, including Cindy and Harry Brown, whose home is closest to the site of the proposed tower, 700 feet away.

Planning board chairman Kerry Hebert said he could not speculate on whether the application will pass. The application goes before the board Wednesday, Aug. 21.

Miller said he thought that even though the vote was on the proposal, the issue at stake was really whether the town was in favor of the proposed cellphone tower. He said that he hasn’t heard any other concerns or issues about Bay Communication’s proposal aside from what was brought up Thursday and at prior meetings.

In a letter to residents earlier this week, selectmen endorsed the proposed tower saying it would help ensure faster emergency services, internet connection and be a benefit to business.

Only a handful of residents spoke at Thursday’s meeting, which lasted about an hour and a half.

Claire Nelson, who along with her husband Mark has signed a lease with Bay Communications, said that throughout previous discussions on the tower they have elected to remain relatively quiet because of what she called “illogical,inaccurate and unfounded arguments” that she said were difficult to argue against.

Among them she cited the idea that families would not want to move to Starks or send their children to the Mission at the Eastward camp because of the tower, property values would drop, that service vehicles would contribute to the degeneration of the road, and health effects.

She also said that the annual pro-marijuana festivals hosted by the Browns on their farm have been a deterrent to families moving to the town and that outsiders view the town as a drug-infested community.

Nelson acknowledged that she thinks the town could benefit from a telecommunications ordinance and that she thinks it would be a good idea for the town to develop one in the future.

She said that the decision was a simple issue of landowners’ rights.

“For 25 years the Browns have fought strong community opposition to the festivals, maintaining their right to use their land in a manner they see fit. But now that another landowner seeks to exercise those same rights, it is somehow a violation of sanctity and way of life,” said Nelson.

Elizabeth Smedberg, a resident of Abijah Hill Road whose home is about 1,000 feet from the proposed site of the tower said she was disappointed in the decision and unsure whether her family would continue to fight the proposed tower.

Joseph Wallace, 68, said he was also in support of the tower because it would give residence better access to emergency medical services. In 2006 a heart attack left him with a permanent disability after he waited 45 minutes for a cellphone call to be received by emergency medical services, he said. It was over three hours before he received treatment.

“It was all because we could not communicate,” he said.

The proposed 195-foot tower would be built on one acre of land leased by the Nelsons. The company has said that construction would begin immediately if the application is approved.

Rachel Ohm —  612-2368
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