Two telecommunications companies are suing the town of Rome and its Planning Board about the Feb. 10 denial of an application to build an estimated $450,000, 190-foot tower just off Route 27 on a ridge known as The Mountain, which overlooks Great Pond.
Global Tower Assets LLC, of Boca Raton, Fla., and Northeast Wireless Networks LLC, of Winchester, Mass., represented by attorneys Neal Pratt and Jonathan Pottle of Eaton Peabody, filed the lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
Global Tower Assets and Northeast Wireless Networks claim they are victims of discrimination, that they should be allowed to provide personal wireless services, that the application process was unreasonably long — mofe than a year — and that any written decision lacked substantial evidence in the written record.
The lawsuit also claims the Planning Board members were biased and violated conflict-of-interest laws.
The companies ask a judge to vacate the board’s denial and order the town to grant immediately a permit for tower construction.
Attorney Frank Underkuffler indicated on Monday he would be defending the town on the allegations in the complaint. He declined to say anything else about the lawsuit.
Previously, Planning Board Chairman Dick Greenan said the board’s major concerns were that Global Towers had not demonstrated adequately that Rome needed a second cell tower and that the proposed tower would be visible from Blueberry Hill, French Mountain, Long Pond and Great Pond, all popular destinations for hikers and boaters.
The plaintiffs are the same two companies that filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Bangor last September against the town of Mount Vernon. That lawsuit accuses the town of unfairly delaying action on an application to erect a 190-foot tower on Blake Hill Road. That complaint remains pending.
In Rome, the companies had proposed to erect the tower, designed to accommodate up to five wireless service providers, on a 10,000-square-foot parcel leased from Kevin and Kathleen Drolet.
The companies also said they had checked other locations, with an eye to co-locating on other tall structures, but found none. They analyzed the former Grange hall and the Rome Fire Station but determined they were too low for transmission or receipt of signals used in personal communication service, which is defined as a digital wireless telephone service, in contrast to analog cellular telephone networks.
They said co-locating at an available 270-foot site on the Hampshire Hill Tower was not feasible because “PCS service would not extend to southern portions of town in and around Route 27 or in eastern areas along Route 225, collectively leaving significant service coverage gaps throughout the town,” according to the complaint.
The companies said that at a Planning Board meeting on May 12, 2013, a number of people spoke in opposition to the proposed tower, including the Belgrade Region Conservation Association, a group “dedicated to land conservation, water quality and the protection of the Belgrade Lakes’ natural heritage,” according to its website. The companies claim four of the six Planning Board members were members of that association, three of them being on the group’s board of directors and/or a founder.
The complaint alleges that none of the board members recused themselves from the application review, nor did they disclose their relationship with the conservation association.
The town hired consultant Richard Comi, of The Center for Municipal Solutions in Delmar, N.Y., to assist the board with radio frequency “engineering, scenic impacts, and property valuation,” something the companies contend Comi was unqualified to do.
Comi concluded the town did not need a second tower to have adequate service.
Betty Adams — 621-5631