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Planning Board mulls request for Brunswick radio tower

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Planning Board mulls request for Brunswick radio tower

BRUNSWICK — The Planning Board tabled a decision on a request to allow construction of an AM radio station tower in a zone where it is not currently allowed.

Attorney Carrie Logan, representing First Wave Media owner Jim Bleikamp, requested an additional change to the application to allow construction of a tower with guy wires rather than a standard monopole tower, which is more expensive.

While a freestanding monopole is the only type of tower allowed in Telecommunications Zone 2, board members said an exception could be made to allow guy wires to support the tower. 

The proposed location of the tower is on a former drive-in theater property on Old Portland Road, across from an existing telecommunications zone. Approval will allow Bleikamp to return WCME to Brunswick airwaves, where it previously operated from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Questions about adequate research of alternative sites topped concerns that went unanswered because an engineer working with First Wave Media could not attend the meeting.

Bleikamp said there are interference issues with sharing a tower with FM radio stations. He also explained that the broadcast tower must be located near the center of town to allow WCME to broadcast evening sports games, because the Federal Communication Commission permit restricts broadcast power to 66 watts at night (but up to 1,000 watts during the day).

Planning Board Vice Chairwoman Margaret Wilson said she wanted more information about interference issues before dismissing the idea of a shared tower. Bleikamp said AM differs from FM and said conflicting signals could be "complicating."

"'Complicating' isn't enough," Wilson said.

"My understanding was we would pose a significant risk and the owner of the property was not willing to have us," Bleikamp responded.

Board member Jeff Peters said towers are supposed to be constructed to share three arrays, something Logan noted is aimed at cellular communications towers, rather than AM radio. She said AM radio normally is the only tenant of a tower. 

"I have concerns about moving ahead without hearing more about the technical aspects of co-habitating and the reasons why (it may not work)," board Chairman Charles Frizzle said.

Member Steve Walker said he does not like the idea of guy wires because of the danger to birds and bats.

"Guy wires are a significant issue with birds," he said. "They are the leading cause of bird and bat fatalities."

Board members also requested additional information about tower interference on neighbors.

"It would be helpful to have an engineering statement that there won't be TV interference," Peters said.

There was no public comment on the issue and the board will address the request again on Dec. 14.

Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or sgrinnell@theforecaster.net.