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Topsham voters enact ban on cell towers

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Topsham voters enact ban on cell towers

TOPSHAM — Residents voted 2,358 to 1,933 Tuesday to ban new cellular communications towers in a residential part of town.

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

Residents of the Heights neighborhood who circulated 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, which the ban covers.

"We're very happy," Heights resident Phin White said. He said he was "really humbled" to have received support from other neighborhoods, too.

The Planning Board in June denied an application from Mariner Tower to build a 75-foot monopole tower at 14 Oak St. Mariner required conditional approval for the tower before going through site plan and transmission tower reviews.

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

White said he thought the lawsuit galvanized support for the referendum.

Chris Ciolfi, Mariner's chief development officer, said Tuesday morning that his company and T-Mobile would continue to pursue the lawsuit.

"We look forward to helping to improve the coverage in that area," he said. "We've demonstrated a need; the town's consultant has confirmed that need, so we look forward to wrapping this up and building a new site up there."

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