The Brooksville selectmen have voted 2-0 (with Richard Bakeman recusing himself) to take the necessary steps to call a special town meeting to consider enacting a 60-day moratorium on cell towers.
The vote was taken Wednesday, August 4, in front of an audience of approximately 12 citizens. Many attended from the Town House Road area, to respond to recent information that Selectman Richard Bakeman had entered into a private contract with agents for a cell tower company to lease a 100-square-foot section of his land near Town House Road for a 190-foot cell tower.
Kerry Brokaw, who lives on that road, said she learned of the proposal on Friday, July 30. Her concerns include its location near existing residences and a town-owned athletic field across the street from the proposed entrance road. Actual setback distances were not available at press time.
Brokaw prepared a petition that read: “We the citizens of Brooksville ask for a moratorium on the building of the AT&T cell tower by the athletic field on Town House Road until we have standards for such a structure that are approved by the town.”
Brokaw first brought the petition to the August 3 meeting of the planning board, where she was advised to bring it instead to a selectmen’s meeting. At that time she had 78 signatures, and was gathering more.
Planning Board Chairman Don Condon told Brokaw the planning board was unable to take any action on the tower matter since the town had no relevant ordinances. However, the board did have before it an application from the tower company for an entrance permit onto land owned by Basil Ladd that would provide access to the tower site on Bakeman’s land.
At the planning board meeting, Blaine Hopkins said he was representing Global Tower Partners, who proposed to build the tower for AT&T and other cell phone companies. However, because Hopkins did not have signed papers from Ladd showing he had “right, title, or interest” in a right of way over Ladd’s property, he agreed to withdraw the application until a later meeting. Hopkins acknowledged that since he had heard that a moratorium was possible, he might not be back for several months.
At the selectmen’s meeting on Wednesday, Brokaw presented her petition to Chairman John Gray, who then invited her and others present to express their views. A variety of issues was raised, including health problems from radiation, the close proximity to a residential area, property rights, property values, aesthetics, need for cell phone service, and the need for public participation in a matter with major impact on the community.
After the discussion, Gray said the selectmen should schedule a town meeting to vote on a moratorium ordinance, but he would need to seek legal advice on how to proceed because of the specific wording of the citizens’ petition.
Selectman Bakeman had been quiet during much of the discussion, but as it continued, he spoke of his contractual interest in the existing tower proposal, and said he had not meant any harm, and that the tower would provide a chance to use that property.
The selectmen then voted 3-0 to schedule a town meeting about a possible moratorium on cell towers.
When it appeared that the discussion and voting on the tower moratorium was ending, The Weekly Packet reporter prefaced a question about board procedures by noting that several people at the planning board meeting the previous night had raised the issue of apparent conflict of interest involving Bakeman.
The reporter then asked whether, at later selectmen’s meetings, when the tower issue was again on the agenda, Bakeman would be recusing himself, as recommended in such situations by the Maine Municipal Association.
Concerned about possible future problems with the action just taken, Gray called for a second vote, which was 2-0, with Bakeman recusing himself.