Board eyes revisions to Tower Ordinance

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer
It’s hardly surprising that Bridgton’s Tower Ordinance was high on the list, when the Bridgton Planning Board recently decided which ordinances to update this winter.
The deficiencies in the existing document became glaringly clear during the board’s review of AT&T’s cell tower application on Hio Ridge Road. Nothing is currently spelled out requiring an applicant to notify abuttors in writing that a telecommunications tower is planned for their neighborhood.
That omission of requiring abuttor notification cost the Planning Board dearly, in terms of goodwill, among neighbors on Hio Ridge Road. The residents’ level of shock and outrage over the cell tower plans was all the more amplified when they learned after the fact that the review had begun.
Now the board has drafted new language to ensure that nothing like that ever happens again. At their Dec. 16 meeting, the board reviewed new rules for tower developers requiring that all abuttors living within 1,000 feet of the proposed tower property line be notified in writing of the plans at least 12 days before the first meeting is held.
The rules would require those living within 500 feet of the tower property to be notified by certified mail, with regular mail to be used for the remaining notices. Notices by certified mail would also be required to be sent to any town located within 1,000 feet of the tower property, in cases where the project site is located near a town line.
As with all other abuttor notifications, the developer must prove they mailed the notices in order to have the application considered complete.
Another addition being proposed to the Tower Ordinance’s Application Procedures would grant the board the authority to request additional information that must be provided within three months, with a three-month extension option. The language codifies the board’s requirement, during the AT&T review, to have an independent third party expert evaluate the need for a new cell tower as opposed to co-locating on an existing tower.
The Planning Board will be continuing its work on the Tower Ordinance over the winter. The board is also studying amendments to the six-square-foot restriction on signs in the Shoreland Zone, as well as the 25-foot setback requirement from vehicle rights-of-way in the Site Plan Review Ordinance.
The board plans to hold public hearings on all revisions in preparation for a voter referendum in June.

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