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Topsham referendum: Retroactive cell tower ban goes to voters

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Topsham referendum: Retroactive cell tower ban goes to voters

TOPSHAM — Voters on Nov. 2 will decide whether to ban new cellular communications towers in some residential neighborhoods.

The ban, retroactive to April 1, was sought by a petition that garnered 556 certified signatures. The Board of Selectmen voted in July to send the matter to referendum.

Residents of the Heights neighborhood who spread the petition have strongly opposed a cell tower that was proposed for that area. They maintain that such a structure is inappropriate for that neighborhood and others in the Urban Residential Zone.

The Planning Board voted in June to deny Mariner Tower's application to build a 75-foot monopole tower at 14 Oak St. Mariner needed conditional approval for the tower before undergoing site plan and transmission tower reviews.

Mariner and T-Mobile, the service provider that wanted to use the tower, are suing the town to get the permits denied by the Planning Board. The two companies filed an appeal in U.S. District Court in July, and the matter is still pending. They seek an injunction and a conditional use permit, along with every other permit required for the tower to be built and operated.

During a public hearing on the referendum held during the Board of Selectmen's Oct. 7 meeting, Topsham Development Chairman Joshua Spooner expressed concern not with a neighborhood or town wanting to change a zoning ordinance, but rather with the retroactive nature of this proposed zoning amendment.

He argued that the amendment could send a negative message to businesses interested in Topsham: that the town might change its rules retroactively when a new project is pursued.

Phin White, a Heights resident who opposes the cell tower proposed for his neighborhood, countered that the proposed change is meant to send a message that a cell tower is not appropriate for such an area.

"We want to support the Planning Board decision with more strength," he said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.