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FALMOUTH — The Planning Board on Tuesday declined to send the Town Council a recommendation about a cell phone tower proposed off Field Road.
The board held a public hearing on a conditional rezoning request from Verizon Wireless, but decided not to take any action, since there will be a merit review on the same issue on Sept. 8. Members unanimously supported a neutral recommendation.
Three members of the public who spoke all voiced concerns.
Tucker and Kelly Irwin, of Watts Farm Way, both opposed the tower, saying it would interfere with the rustic qualities of the area.
“The bottom line is the visual impact,” Tucker said. “It looks right over my house. It’s ugly as sin. Not matter how you dress it up, it’s ugly.”
Kelly said they bought their land because it was rural, and it has great opportunities for protecting natural resources. She said there’s no need for the tower proposed by Verizon.
“The scale of this is way out of whack with the area,” she said.
Marty Bruno, also of Watts Farm Way, said once the tower is built, it’s never going to go away.
The board eventually decided to encourage the town council to do “due diligence,” and review whether Field Road is the best location for the tower.
Board Chairman Robert Chace he wasn’t sure if he was in favor of the rezoning, but he wasn’t against it either.
“I’m at a neutral position at this point,” Chace said.
Alternate board member Thomas McKeon said he didn’t have enough information to make a decision, and moved to make no recommendation to the council. He said he did have some concerns.
“I’m deeply concerned (the proposal) doesn’t meet the goal of the Comprehensive Plan,” McKeon said, referencing to the document that tries to balance commercial projects and preservation. “I have reservations about this project.”
Verizon wanted conditional rezoning of the area so construction of a tower could begin. It is proposing is a tower of 117 feet – approximately the height of an 11- or 12-story building – with a 3-foot antenna, at 121 Field Road. This area is a farm and forests district.
The tower would not be lit, and would be painted a flat gray. The tower and its equipment would be contained in a 4,800-square-foot fenced enclosure, along with a propane tank to provide fuel for a back-up generator in an equipment shelter.
Representatives from Verizon said a new structure is required due to connectivity issues in the area, and the size of the structure is needed since the terrain varies so much.
They also said there has been aggressive growth of wireless customers in the area, and a need to maintain network capacity.
The town is now served by three towers: one in Falmouth, one in Cumberland, and one in Portland. All are shared with other providers. The Verizon representatives said the proposed tower would best support the interior of Falmouth.
Verizon Wireless had three potential landing spots for a tower, but only proposed the so-called Tier III location on Field Road.
Shorter Tier I and Tier II towers would have meant working with an existing tower. A Tier I tower, which would have been proposed for the Foreside Community Church, is the shortest and is usually hidden in a steeple or similar structure. A Tier II tower, which did not have a chosen location, is usually a jointly owned tower.
The Town Council will take up the issue on Sept. 8. The Planning Board will then have to approve the application if the council approves the rezoning ordinance.
“The council will do what the council will do,” Chace said. “It’s really the council’s role to work through these rezoning issues.”
Verizon Wireless paid $500 for the conditional rezoning application fee.
Planning Board members Bernard Pender and William Benzing were absent Tuesday, which allowed McKeon to vote.