STARKS — Residents opposed to the construction of a cellphone tower near their property are going to the county’s highest court to appeal the town’s approval of the tower.
The appeal was filed in Somerset County Superior Court earlier this month, asking that town approval to build the 195-foot-tall tower be overturned
It’s been almost a year since Boston company Bay Communications II LLC appliced to the town Planning Board for permission to build the tower. The tower initially would provide phone service through AT&T but could host up to five additional providers.
After the Planning Board approved the tower in August, residents Harry and Cindy Brown, who live near the proposed Abijah Hill Road site, filed an appeal. However, the town appeals board upheld the decision in a 3-1 vote in January, saying that it did not violate any condition of the town ordinance.
Bar Harbor attorney Lynne Williams, who represents the Browns, filed the new appeal with the Somerset County Superior Court on March 10, stating that the Planning Board had made errors in reviewing the application.
It says the board ignored environmental concerns, citing a letter from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife voicing concerns about deer wintering areas and stating that the board did not study what effects blasting for the project would have on drinking water supplies.
Williams, who is also a former chairwoman of the Maine Green Independent Party, has represented cellphone tower opponents in other places around the state, including Bar Harbor and Brooksville.
“The most frequently seen issue with cellphone towers is their location — how close they are to residences and are there ways to find sites? We all know we have to have them, but are there ways to cite them to minimize the visual impact?” said Williams. She said the Browns would support the tower in other locations in town.
Williams, who is a former chairwoman of the Planning Board in Bar Harbor, said a cellphone tower ordinance was developed there after a tower was proposed by a company representing Verizon Wireless. Starks does not have a cellphone tower ordinance.
“I think it’s really important to have specific ordinances so that the towns can maintain control of the siting of these projects,” said Williams.
The town has 30 days to file a brief in response to the appeal filed by Williams. A court date will be set after arguments from both sides have been filed.
The Browns have opposed to the tower publicly since an application first was submitted in June. Their efforts to stop the project have included proposing a moratorium on cellphone towers that was defeated in a special town meeting, and the appeal of the Planning Board decision.
Opposition to the construction of cellphone towers has yielded similar outcomes in other parts of the state, including the nearby towns of Rome and Mount Vernon. In those towns, telecommunications companies have filed lawsuits against the towns, accusing them of unfair review of applications.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368 [email protected]