Planning Board hears proposal for Falmouth Road cell tower

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FALMOUTH — Plans to build a cellular tower off Falmouth Road will have to go before the Planning Board again before consideration by the Town Council.

Verizon Wireless is proposing to build a 110-foot tower at 175 Falmouth Road.

The applicants appeared before the Town Council in August to introduce an application for conditional rezoning of the property.

The council then sent the proposal to the Planning Board for an advisory opinion on the conditional rezoning. Verizon appeared at the board’s Oct. 4 meeting.

The tower would fall into the largest category of standalone towers regulated by the town, otherwise known as a Tier III. Tier I towers are generally hidden in structures like church steeples, and Tier II are freestanding structures smaller than Tier III.

Scott Anderson, an attorney from the Portland law firm Verrill Dana who is representing Verizon, said the Tier III tower is needed to improve cellular coverage in town. He said the location is the right place because the coverage wouldn’t overlap with the coverage provided by other towers. He also said the location is far enough from abutting property owners to have minimal impact on them.

“It’s 700 feet from the closest property line,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the 110-foot tower would have a “relatively minor” visual impact, and the site is so far from the road and nearby properties that there would no impact from noise. It would be installed in a 75-by-75-foot enclosure with a backup generator.

Anderson said Verizon typically builds towers around 200 feet in height, but a tower that tall isn’t necessary. The tower would be a monopole, but could be designed as a monopine – a replica of a pine tree – if the town desires. The station would not be manned, but would include an access road.

Anderson said the tower would be all but invisible from public areas, and not visible at all within a mile. According to a study done by the applicant, in which a weather balloon was displayed from the tower’s proposed site to give an indication of its height and visibility, there were only a few areas in town where the structure could be seen.

Board members asked why Verizon couldn’t add antennas on existing towers, such as the structures on Presumpscot Street and Victoria Lane. They also questioned whether towers at public places, like Town Hall or the Public Works Department, the latter of which has a U.S. Cellular tower on site, would be better.

Anderson replied that the Public Works building is too close to another tower, and Verizon would still have to build a tower at Town Hall. He said the Falmouth Road property provides the best location to address a gap in coverage.

Verizon Wireless appeared before the council in fall 2014 to propose a 117-foot Tier III tower with a 3-foot antenna on Field Road. A public hearing before the council was postponed and was not rescheduled.

The council suspended its rules in August in order to send the most recent application to the Planning Board, and the applicants will have to return to the board with more information before planners can recommend the project to the council.

If the council approves, the proposal would go back to the Planning Board for a permit.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or