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Originally published in Castine Patriot, October 13, 2011
190-foot cell tower approved in Penobscot

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Penobscot hearing about a cell phone tower

During a Penobscot hearing about a cell phone tower, engineer John Stevens (standing) holds map showing the areas covered by tower’s signal. At left is AT& T’s representative Gin Vilante. In background are selectmen Paul Bowen (left) and Stanley Shorey.

Photo by Jonathan Thomas Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Jonathan Thomas

The Penobscot Planning Board approved a 190-foot cell phone tower at its October 4 meeting. The permit was approved by a 5-0 vote following an hour-long hearing and the board’s final review of the application.

The tower will be located on Melody Lane, off Bayview Road (Route 199) on a 350-acre parcel owned by G.M. Allen and Sons (map 8, lot 38).

The lead applicant is Florida Tower Partners, LLC, d/b/a North Atlantic Towers. The company has leased 1.5 acres of wooded land adjacent to a blueberry field. The tower and supporting equipment building will be within a 75-foot-square area enclosed by a chain-link fence. Because of its monopole design, there will be no guy wires. Since the tower will be less than 200-feet tall, the Federal Aviation Administration does not require it to be lighted.

AT&T has a contract to be the first cell phone company to mount its antennas on the tower. Because there will be space on the tower for five other companies to mount antennas, Florida Tower presenter Randy Howse told the audience of approximately 20 people at the hearing that it is unlikely another cell tower will ever be built in the town.

The tower company will also provide space so the Penobscot Fire Department can meet its radio transmission needs under new federal emergency communication standards soon to go into effect.

In response to questions from fire chief Dennis Robertson, Howse said he expects the tower will be up before winter, and that facilities for the fire department can be set up quickly. He said cell tower operations from the site should be ready during the first quarter of next year, depending on when the phone company can make needed connections.

During the hearing, Howse, along with engineer John Stevens, provided further information about the tower itself, areas within range of the tower’s signal, the access road, and how the tower would look.

Stevens displayed several photographic illustrations showing how visible the tower would be from various locations in town. The illustrations were based on visibility tests done earlier in the year that used a tethered balloon. He said that during the tests the balloon was only visible from one of seven areas considered sensitive.

According to Code Enforcement Officer Judy Jenkins, the motion at the end of the meeting to approve the tower permit was conditioned on receipt of a bond sufficient to cover the cost of the tower’s removal if it is abandoned. The wording of the proposed bond is currently under review by the town’s attorney.

The application was the first to be considered under the town’s recently enacted cell tower ordinance. The board held a pre-application conference with the applicant on May 17. The application itself was submitted to the planning board on August 15, and has been under review by the board since then.

Board members present on October 4 and voting to approve the application were Chairman Dana Willis, James Gross Jr., Judy McKay, Liz Snow, and Robert Tapley.

The town’s three selectmen, Chairman Paul Bowen, Harold Hatch, and Stanley Shorey also attended the meeting.