Bath planners to continue talks on cell tower rules

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BATH — The Planning Board opted Tuesday to continue talks next month on wireless communications facility regulations.

The board discussed changes to the proposed rules, including how to ensure that an abandoned cellular tower is dismantled. Planning Director Jim Upham also would like City Solicitor Roger Therriault to review the language before it goes before the City Council.

The language would add governance of wireless communications facilities and their towers to Bath’s land use code.

“It’s obvious that there are going to be more towers around, so the Planning Board is trying to be proactive and develop a regulation so that we don’t end up with a tower company wanting to put one where it can’t go, and having a big battle over that, or a tower company putting one where it could go, but the regulations don’t mitigate the negative impacts,” Upham said on Tuesday.

The proposed installation of a cell tower in nearby Topsham has dragged on for months. After several lengthy meetings the Planning Board there last June denied Mariner Tower’s request to build a tower in the town’s Heights neighborhood; now the company is suing the town to overturn that decision, a trial could begin in September.

Upham said Bath had approved a tower on North Bath Road with general site plan review standards. That tower is in the city’s rural low density residential zone.

The city does not have regulations that govern wireless communications facilities; its ordinance only regulates towers. A tower less than 50 feet tall can be erected in much of the city, while taller towers are only allowed in the low density residential zone.

The proposed language would require the structures to be set back from property lines so that if a tower fell, it would not land on a neighboring house or street.

The Planning Board will ultimately decide whether to recommend the language to the City Council, which will then vote on its implementation.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.