Proposed cell phone tower in Casco

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer

CASCO — Some property owners living near the proposed site for a 150-foot cell tower showed up at Monday’s Casco Planning Board meeting to sit in on AT&T’s application approval process. The two parties owning land adjacent to the site were represented by a lawyer who sought to delay the approval of the new construction at 190 Tamarack Trail.

The property is located south of Route 11 and east of Route 85, and is in the vicinity west of Dumpling Pond and better-known Coffee Pond. Currently, Robert and Shellie Symonds hold the title to the land.

Prior to reviewing AT&T’s application, Chairman William Horton recused himself from that portion of the meeting, stating he is one of the abutting landowners.

As advised by the town’s Planning Consultant Jim Seymour, the job of the Planning Board is to review the application to see if all areas — or sections such as setbacks, road maintenance, signage, landscaping — are addressed, and that the 27-page application has been completed correctly.

“Going forward, (the board) accepts the application, then discusses whether or not AT&T attempted to look at all locations,” Seymour said, suggesting the board also schedule a site walk. “Tonight, should not be the final vote of ‘yea’ or ‘nay,’” he said.

In its first motion — and after some shuffling of reams of papers and a brief discussion, the board unanimously voted that the application had been completed.

The second motion was to decide if AT&T had explored alternate sites where the communications company could add on to an existing structure. The applicant had to prove that other potential sites weren’t feasible and that building a new cell tower was the best option. The board agreed that AT&T had demonstrated its best efforts to co-locate on an existing tower; and therefore, constructing a new tower to gain more cell coverage is the best choice.

Also, the board scheduled an 8 a.m. site walk for this upcoming Saturday. One of the purposes of the site walk will be to float a balloon to the height of the proposed mono-tower.

In the submitted application, there was a photograph of a balloon aloft at 150 feet above the ground. But, the board agreed it was difficult not only to find but also hard to use the tiny image to gauge height.

“We’d like some visual of what they’re going to see out their windows,” said Erika Frank, the Windham-based lawyer representing abutting property owners, Horton as well as Brian and Terry Cosgrove.

“It’s going to affect people differently in different places,” said Acting Chairman David Fowler. “Someone closer might not see it as well as someone further away.”

Robert E. Gashlin, a telecommunications consultant hired by AT&T, said he couldn’t guarantee a windless day so the balloon float would work, but he would give it a try Saturday morning.

At that point, Seymour suggested another option for visualizing how tall the tower would be: To draw a line above the tree line in the photo; however, this method would require getting measurements for the tree line.

The attorney for AT&T Barry Hobbins said cranes have been used to demonstrate height, but the property doesn’t have adequate clearing to accommodate a crane.

Also, Seymour said the designs call for a monotower (also called a flush mount) The monotower has less width than traditional towers that continue to expand either up or out as more telecommunications equipment is added on. “It’s not going to get any taller,” he said.

Civil attorney Frank tried to argue the required setbacks are not enough, and if the tower fell, it could damage surrounding property.

Seymour as well as AT&T’s lawyer said the current stage of the application process is for the planning board to make sure all required information and documentation is attached to the application it has just accepted. In addition, it is the board’s opportunity to ask questions so the applicant can present plans.

“These issues that have been raised will have another forum,” Hobbins said.

In addition to Saturday’s site walk at 190 Tamarack Trail, the Planning Board will meet Oct. 6 (which is a Wednesday) to continue reviewing AT&T’s application for a site plan approval.

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