Topsham cell tower lawsuit closer to court

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TOPSHAM — Town Manager Jim Ashe said Tuesday that he expects a federal lawsuit against the town over placement of a cellular communications tower to go to court next summer.

Chris Ciolfi, chief development officer for plaintiff Mariner Tower, said he hoped the case would be heard much sooner.

“We’re moving forward with our site and we’re ready to go, and hoping that the courts are going to make a decision come (the) first of the year,” he said.

Ashe and the Board of Selectmen met with the town attorney, Lorelle Dwyer, in executive session on Monday night before to discuss the case. Ashe said the board took no action.

Mariner Tower wants to build a 75-foot monopole tower at 14 Oak St., in Topsham’s Heights neighborhood. According to documents in U.S. District Court, T-Mobile, which joined Mariner in the lawsuit in July, withdrew from the case in September.

Christopher Mulligan, an attorney for Mariner, and Brian Grossman, an attorney who has represented T-Mobile, could not be reached for comment.

Ciolfi said last month that his company looks forward to improving coverage in the area where the tower would be built. He said his company demonstrated a need and that a consultant hired by the town to review Mariner’s proposal had confirmed that need.

The Planning Board in June denied Mariner’s application to build the tower. The company needed conditional approval for the tower before going through site plan and transmission tower reviews.

Mariner and T-Mobile then sued the town to obtain the permits the Planning Board denied. The two companies filed an appeal in U.S. District Court in July, seeking an injunction and a conditional use permit, as well as every other permit required for the tower to be built and operated.

Last month, Topsham residents voted 2,358 to 1,933 to ban new cell towers in the town’s Urban Residential Zone. The ban is retroactive to April 1.

Ashe declined on Wednesday to discuss the possible consequences, in light of the ban, if the court rules in Mariner’s favor.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or [email protected].

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.