BENTON — The Planning Board has rejected an application for permission to build a cellphone tower near a residential neighborhood, after the company proposing the tower asked to put its application on hold indefinitely.

Planning Board Co-Chairwoman Patricia Lanning said Friday that the board voted to reject the application because it was deemed incomplete. U.S. Cellular, the company proposing the tower, had not provided information the board had requested pertaining to the town’s land use ordinance, Lanning said. The tower had sparked opposition from local residents when it was proposed last summer.

“We were looking for information pertaining to the ordinance, and what they had given us was inadequate. We asked for more clarification,” Lanning said.

“Basically, they have not met the requirements of the ordinance,” she added.

The board did not hold a public hearing before voting against the application on Tuesday night, she said. At a meeting in August, board members said they were concerned about the safety of the tower and whether the area selected by the company was an appropriate location.

In a Jan. 12 letter to the company, the Planning Board said that it had rejected the application because of noncompliance — a lack of information requested in a list of concerns the board sent the company in November and because the information the board received failed to comply with the town’s ordinances covering standards for wireless telecommunications facilities.

However, the company was pulling back from the project even before the Planning Board voted to deny the application.

In a Jan. 4 email to Benton Code Enforcement Officer Al Tempesta, Jim Hebert, with Black Diamond Consultants, the Gardiner company filing the tower application for U.S. Cellular, said the company wanted to put the application on indefinite hold and “will not be presenting additional information to the Benton Planning Board on this application in the near future.

“Please inform the Planning Board of this outcome on the USCC application so they may remove the application from further discussion for the near future, i.e., for at least a few months,” Hebert said.

In an interview Friday, Hebert said U.S. Cellular elected to drop the application after the board asked for additional information on the project from independent consultants.

“We didn’t provide the information they asked for,” he said. Hebert referred further questions to U.S. Cellular.

Last year, the company proposed an 80-foot-high self-supported monopole tower on leased land behind commercial buildings on Benton Avenue near the intersection with Neck Road.

The company said the tower would help ease traffic on a tower in Waterville that is overloaded by data demands, resulting in dropped calls and spotty audio service.

But the proposed tower was opposed forcefully by residents in the neighborhood around the proposed tower site, who worried about the health effects of radio wave traffic and thought the company was pushing its weight around in a small town.

In July, residents filed a petition with more than 100 signatures asking the Planning Board to reject the application on the grounds that it was not consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan and the surrounding area and failed to meet setback and conditional use standards.

Eric Cyr, who lives next to the proposed tower site and helped organized the petition, said Friday he was happy to hear the board had rejected the application.

“Of course I’m happy about it. We’ll just have to see if they will appeal it,” he said.

“It’s a good thing, obviously. The people in town that supported getting the cell tower out will be really happy when they find out,” Cyr added.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


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