Conflict of interest alleged in tower appeal

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer
Should Michael Figoli have stepped down from the Bridgton Planning Board during its lengthy and contentious review of the cell phone tower on Hio Ridge Road?
Paul Veit thinks so. At the very least, Veit believes, Figoli should have disclosed his status as an active tower builder when the board first began reviewing the tower request in April. That way, the other board members could have made a definitive ruling on whether Figoli’s involvement with tower-building constituted a conflict of interest.
Veit has filed an appeal of the Planning Board’s decision to approve AT&T and American Towers’ plans to build a 130-foot monopole telecommunications tower at 214 Hio Ridge Road. His appeal will be heard tonight, Thursday, Oct. 23, before the Bridgton Board of Appeals. The meeting begins at 7:15 p.m. in the Iredale Street entrance downstairs at the Bridgton Municipal Complex.
Deputy Town Manager Georgiann Fleck, who serves as secretary for the appeals board, said the board’s legal counsel would be attending the meeting to advise the board on whether Veit’s conflict of interest charge has merit.
Veit is also appealing the Planning Board’s approval on grounds that the board did not properly interpret the town’s Tower Ordinance, which permits the construction of new towers “only where all other reasonable opportunities have been exhausted.” Veit believes the existing tower on Sam Ingalls Road could have adequately served AT&T’s needs, other than a small “sliver” of Route 302 frontage that would not receive a signal.
Veit states in his appeal that three members of the Planning Board have telecommunications backgrounds, and Figoli is a current tower builder. “We still do not know if he is actively working for AT&T and/or American Towers,” Veit’s appeal states.
Veit said that when Figoli’s possible bias was brought up by neighbors at a meeting on June 17, Figoli’s response was, “Why, because I was at three tower sites today?” Viet continued, “The neighborhood is offended by this attitude.”
Veit also referred to another statement made at the same meeting by Figoli to a Hio Ridge neighbor that “Your home is more of a risk than this tower.” Veit said, “It seemed like AT&T and American Towers didn’t need a lawyer at this point, because they had Mike in the room. Mike was clearly sharing his opinion and influencing the meeting at this point.”
Veit also alleges that Figoli “was very influential in the deliberations…when asked about whether or not this caused damage to the neighborhood, Mike was the first to speak up and say that he didn’t think so.”

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