Cape Elizabeth planners tell Verizon to revise cell tower plan

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Planning Board Tuesday unanimously tabled Verizon Wireless’s application to place wireless communication antennas on a Shore Acres water tower.

Board members said they want more information from the company before reconsidering on April 25 the proposal to put antennas on the 70-year-old tower at 11 Avon Road.

Verizon lawyer Scott Anderson of the Portland firm Verrill Dana submitted the application, which is the second for this project, on Jan. 29. The first was opposed by some neighbors and town officials, and ultimately led to a federal lawsuit won by Verizon.

The dispute began after Code Enforcement Officer Ben McDougal in early 2014 denied Verizon’s application to place an antenna on the tower, which is owned by the Portland Water District and has been dry for a decade. Verizon sought reconsideration in June 2014, but was denied by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Verizon sued the town in July 2014 in U.S. District Court in Portland and won on Sept. 30, 2015.

The Planning Board voted 3-2  Feb. 22 to accept the new application as complete. 

At Tuesday’s site plan public hearing, many residents opposed Verizon’s application, citing concerns over noise and appearance. Residents who live near the tower said they’re concerned it’s generators will be too noisy. Some residents said they want the town to make sure Verizon can be held accountable for the level of noise it produces, to make sure it doesn’t increase over time.

Other residents said they don’t think the antennas will provide the cellular coverage the town needs.

“Verizon has not been clear with at least the Avon Road neighbors about what neighborhoods would actually have improved cell phone coverage with this installation,” Priscilla Armstrong said. “I really would like to have a map on record so that we know who is actually going to benefit from this. I don’t believe it’s going to be Shore Acres.”

Another resident suggested that the town should do an independent study about what parts of town need cellular service the most and the best way to do it.

The Town Council has made improved cellular coverage one of its goals this year.

Board members told Verizon to provide a report on cellular coverage, and a plan with a taller fence and added soundproofing.

The company is also expected to show exactly where antennas will be placed and the access point to the site.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

An application by Verizon Wireless to place antennas on this Avon Road water tower was tabled March 15 by the Cape Elizabeth Planning Board.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.