Company proposes 120-foot cell tower in Bath

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BATH — A company that tried unsuccessfully to install a 75-foot cellular communications tower in Topsham is now interested in erecting a taller one in Bath.

The Bath Planning Board held a pre-application workshop Tuesday with Mariner Tower. The process is voluntary, and the company requested the workshop to hear concerns from the community and board, Planning Director Andrew Deci said in a meeting agenda memo.

Kennebunk-based Mariner wants to build a 120-foot tower at 200 Congress Ave., on property it would lease adjacent to the American Legion.

Two members of the public expressed concerns at the meeting about the tower’s impact on the view from their homes, as well as the safety of the tower in relation to a nearby athletic facility, trail and school, Deci said Wednesday.

He said the Planning Board was generally “pretty receptive” to the tower, but noted that as Mariner goes through the application process and develops its site plan, the board wants the company to focus on the issue of “viewshed” – what can be seen from a particular location.

Shortening the proposed tower so that it is less visible from certain locations is one way of addressing that issue, Deci said.

Bath’s code requires Mariner to acquire federal and state permits before beginning a formal review by the Planning Board, so Mariner may not be back with a full application until this fall, he said.

The Topsham Planning Board denied Mariner’s application to build a 75-foot monopole tower at 14 Oak St. in June 2010. The company needed conditional approval for the tower before going through site plan and transmission tower reviews.

Mariner and T-Mobile, which would have been a carrier on the tower, sued the town in July 2010 to obtain the permits the Planning Board denied. The lawsuit sought an injunction and a conditional use permit, as well as every other permit required for the tower to be built and operated.

T-Mobile withdrew from the case in September 2010. A federal judge dismissed the case last October.

“One had nothing to do with the other,” Mariner President Louis Vitali said on Wednesday, regarding the Topsham bid and the Bath proposal.

He said his company has “successfully developed a tower … in another area of Topsham, as well as in Brunswick, as well as in Freeport. We own towers in Newcastle and Bristol. … We don’t go around randomly, picking out of a hat where to put these sites. Our customers tell us where they need coverage.”

AT&T would be a carrier on the Bath tower, Vitali said, noting that “we build sites to house multiple carriers.”

Deci said Bath mandates that slots be created on a tower for at least carriers.

“In addition to the carrier slots, they need to show us that there isn’t available space on other devices or structures as a method of approval for this,” he said.

The proposal is the first to come before Bath since the City Council approved an ordinance regulating wireless communication facilities in February.

The language, approved by the Planning Board last November, generally prohibits cell towers from open spaces and coastal areas. The ban also applies to downtown areas, unless the towers are completely hidden within structures.

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

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.