2018-11-30 / Letters

Writers sound off on cell tower

To the editor,

Members of my family have been coming to Prouts Neck since the 1890s. The Scarborough Marsh is an integral part of the area and its beauty is breathtaking.

Many species of birds and animals have thrived in that unspoiled environment for generations. I think it would be a shame to locate a tall cell tower there rather than at a nearby location that wouldn’t interfere with the preservation of nature.

I hope Verizon will seriously consider a different place for the tower. Communication is important, but not more important than the preservation of the environment.

Paget Higgins

To the editor,

We have read Mr. Gates’ opinion column in the Scarborough Leader and only hope our elected town officers and planners have done so as well. Mr. Gates has emphasized the importance of voting against the proposed site of this unsightly tower in order to preserve the (already compromised) beauty and integrity of one of our town’s most valuable assets, the Scarborough Marsh.

We must do so on behalf of, and for the sake of our other most valuable asset: our children.

Peter and Diana Hammond

To the editor,

My sympathy lies with those who see the proposed tower as an intrusion into the ambience of the marsh. Perhaps all efforts have not been exhausted in finding a creative solution.

Perhaps unrelated, perhaps not. The town is rapidly pursuing the development of a large parcel of land with financial support for the developers in return for a town center. What do we lose in the deal?

Could it be our quality of life?

Scarborough’s many beautiful natural resources need protection. We see now how much traffic congestion there is in town. The town has evolved and will continue to evolve. There will always be forces pushing in different directions.

All we have to do is look south to see the future. What we do now cannot be reversed. As we lose more of the nature around us, we lose more of our connection to what nourishes us.

I agree we have an obligation to educate the younger generation. Perhaps that includes what choices we are making now that will create their future.

Our town councilors and town officials, who I’m sure are committed and well-meaning people, perhaps view development as inevitable for employment activities.

Can we seek solutions that don’t create more stress in our lives. Not all land needs to be developed. If it has to be developed, lets take our time and think of the consequences.

People come to Scarborough to refresh their souls.

I see that tower as a stark intrusion into the soul of the marsh.

Charlie Perakis

To the editor,

I applaud Mr. Gates’ column decrying Verizon’s efforts to establish a cell tower on the edge of the Scarborough Marsh, and I wholeheartedly agree with his sentiments. I have attended multiple meetings in the municipal offices on this subject and I am yet to hear a single citizen voice support for the tower.

Rather, townspeople of all political stripes are united in opposition. Not there. We see no compelling reason why the Black Point Road location should be chosen.

Erecting a tower on the Sanitation District’s property accomplishes limited goals; it does not improve reception for neighboring communities, including Higgins Beach. Instead, its greater benefit is for Verizon alone, allowing them to shift call volume from towers in nearby, non-Scarborough locations. Further, there is the lurking certainty that, once the tower is established, Verizon will declare that it is insufficient and file with the feds for permission to increase its height by 10 percent (10 feet in this case) – a permission that is usually rubber stamped. Hence, eyesore becomes EYESORE.

Oh, and here’s the part that astounds me: we are not allowed to discuss in public meetings concern over the possible impact of cell tower signals on the migrating birds or on human health for that matter. First amendment, anyone?

The marsh is an important recreation destination. And it is a vital resource for wildlife, particularly migratory birds. There is maybe a 300-yard stretch on Black Point Road – in the vicinity of the sanitation property – where I, a Verizon customer, drop calls. I would gladly put the phone down and wait 60 seconds than to see the tower go up. I urge the town planning board and sanitation district to deny Verizon’s application and to refuse to amend its lease. There are ample grounds, clearly identified in recent meetings, to do so. I urge them to represent the will of us citizens.

Francis Minot Weld

To the editor,

I wholeheartedly agree with everything Marvin Gates said in his recent op-ed. We need to do all we can to protect the Scarborough Marsh. It is a natural resource that we treasure.

Lindsay Hopkins-Weld

To the editor,

To Scarborough Town Council, planning board and Scarborough Sanitary District:

My adult children, husband and I want to be counted among those who want to influence decisions in favor of the well-being of current and future generations of Mainers. In the past our community has neglected our responsibilities as stewards of the lands that sustain us. Maybe decision-makers and the public were not aware of what we know today. Intentionally or unintentionally we have allowed roads, tracks and buildings to denigrate one of our greatest ecological treasures, the Scarborough Marsh. Why continue to squander our assets when there are alternatives that can result in a win-win?

We urge our elected and appointed officials to do the right thing. We are living with the past intrusions on the marsh today. When there are other options, why would we further encroach on the Scarborough Marsh with a cell tower? Is the marsh not valued by Verizon or by our officials? Is there not understanding of the value of the ecosystems services the marsh provides or of the value this natural space has for people?

Cell phones are an important part of modern life. We do not believe that Verizon or our officials are working very hard to take a longer view that meets the needs for cell service while valuing our Scarborough Marsh.

We have placed trust in our officials. We hope they won’t betray that trust … for us and for generations to come.

Kathy, Kirkland, Garrett, William, Abby and
Finley Gates

To the editor,

In 1933 I first crossed the Scarborough Marsh in my parents’ car.

Then and now, every time I cross that bridge, the smell of the marsh and the sea cast a spell of a very special comfort, of welcome and of belonging.

No matter where I lived, worked or traveled, my future was calling me across that bridge and now I am a resident of 13 years. I fished, boated and even swam in the marsh. I marveled at the sunsets across the marsh, pic-nicked with five generations in view of the marsh and worried about the build-up of sand that threatened every so often.

The marsh is a magic world and now it is being threatened with a harsh reality of cold steel and common avarice. Why on earth would anyone chose such a venue for an expensive project that could start disappearing in twenty to forty years in the rising tides? Why, when the tower’s signal will not serve those who lack and need a signal, including the biggest (and expanding) taxpayer in Scarborough, would we want this tower? Why are the leaders of Scarborough not pushing back against Verizon’s choice of venue, when there are ample hills and forest to mask an unwelcome so-called necessity? How does Scarborough benefit other by receiving rent?

One of Scarborough’s assets is that it attracts visitors and, with the climate change bringing more heat and drought to the south, we are likely to see more migration from that direction. Why should we damage one of our great drawing cards by lessening the appeal of the marsh.

Let’s find a better place for a tower we think is needed.

Margaret H. Wise

To the editor,

In his opinion piece of Nov. 16, 2018, Are We Going To Stand Up To Verizon, Marvin Gates appropriately reminds us of our need for thoughtful local input in the very real David and Goliath story that is playing out right now in Scarborough.

Verizon continues their attempt to railroad a proposal through our planning board that will allow them to place a 90- to 150-foot monopole right in the sensitive low-lying Scarborough marsh without the possibility of any proper buffering as is required by law. Why hasn’t the town planning board required Verizon to propose alternate sites?

More importantly, why hasn’t our planning board required Verizon to provide thorough calculations of the coverage this and other sites would provide and to whom? It does not sound as though this pole will help with the dead spots at Higgins Beach, Piper Shores or along Route 77 toward the border with Cape Elizabeth.

Why not? Who will this pole serve? Saco and Old Orchard Beach?

The sanitary district location is not a high point in the area and most certainly is not an appropriate area in which to add gas tanks (needed to run the generators that power cell towers in the event of storms). The planning board must step up and require that Verizon look carefully at the many areas of our town that are higher, drier and do not affect the marsh.

The town’s own analysis by a paid RF engineer several years ago uncovered at least 6 other sites that were appropriate to expand coverage for our town. This was the only one in a low-lying sensitive area abutting the marsh and town beaches. So why put it there?

Some argue that the town sanitary facility is already there, but I would argue that this facility was designed in a way that does not visually intrude on the marsh recreation areas or town beaches that are assets for our town and for tourism jobs.

Also, I believe the town ordinance has a provision to require co-location for any new towers. How about enlarging the various stealth poles that already exist on the high points near the fire stations on Black Point Road, Pleasant Hill Road or up on Route 1?

We have every right to make sure that we, as a town, are not being taken for a ride. It is appropriate for us to ask for our planning board to plan, to demand optimized placement and stealth design of any and all infrastructure improvements so that they really serve our community not just the bottom line of Verizon or any other private for profit company.

Ann Conrad

To the editor,

Scarborough Marsh, Maine’s largest salt marsh, is integral to our town’s history, its economy, its identity and its brand. It is the jewel in our town’s crown.

In Scarborough’s recent comprehensive plan survey, 81.37 percent of respondents want to: “Preserve elements of the town’s rural character and significant vistas”; 86.4 percent want to “Protect the Scarborough Marsh’s ecosystem through the preservation of water courses and undeveloped blocks of land that are significant to wildlife habitat and low impact recreation opportunities.”

These two statements represent the greatest agreement of all the survey questions. Fiscal sustainability was third at only 68.44 percent. Protecting the Scarborough Marsh is about the only thing our town can agree upon.

So why would we allow Verizon to build a large cellular transmission tower on the edge of the marsh?

The zoning ordinance mandates that cell towers are buffered with dense tree growth and vegetation to minimize visual impact from public spaces. Verizon’s currently proposed tower on sanitary district property has no buffering from the Scarborough Marsh, a highly valued public space.

Thankfully, sanitary district trustees have voted to consider amending their lease with Verizon to shift the tower to a more heavily buffered location on their property.

The lease should also state, and the planning board should demand, that it is a stealth tower, with no external antenna – basically a really big flagpole.

A cryptically painted stealth tower in a heavily wooded location could satisfy Verizon’s network needs, while complying with the zoning ordinance and not devastating the iconic vistas of the Scarborough Marsh, our town’s premier public space.

We urge Verizon, the sanitary district, and the planning board to work together to achieve this very reasonable compromise.

That would be worthy of thanks.

Lucy and Bill LaCasse

To the editor,

Just because Verizon’s attorneys, Verrill Dana, helped Scarborough’s officials develop Federally compliant regulations regarding cell tower location, does not give them preferred treatment in tower location process – as is definitely the present situation.

Our elected officials, town council – planning board and sanitary district commissioners – need to take a stand and say absolutely no to Verrill and Verizon.

Under no circumstances, short of national emergency, should this cell tower be located on, next to, or within view of such a irreplaceable treasure as the Scarborough Marsh.

Ann Willauer

To the editor,

Thank you Marvin Gates, The Friends of the Scarborough Marsh and the Prouts Neck Association for your tireless efforts defending the Scarborough Marsh.

I have witnessed the vast change to the Scarborough Marsh over the past 50 years and I applaud our citizens defending this amazing natural resource. As the largest salt marsh in the state of Maine and as a major irreplaceable asset to the town of Scarborough we need to protect our marsh and not let the behemoth Verizon do whatever it wants, place a cell phone tower wherever it wants, and then move on.

Eileen Gillespie Fahey

To the editor.

In his opinion piece on Nov. 16, Marvin Gates rightly called attention to Verizon’s plan to build a cell tower in the Scarborough Marsh. I would also like to add that the town council legally approved this location three years ago under the cover of darkness, without any public discussion. Considering the importance of this decision, I am appalled at the indifference the town council has shown to this project and protecting the beauty of the Scarborough Marsh.

I fear that this plan has been set in motion and that the town council will approve a tower. If this is the case, I can only hope that they will insist on a less intrusive tower design, such as a stealth pole or “brown stick,” that will serve the purpose of providing added cell coverage while limiting, to some degree, the environmental impact. I also hope the town will limit the height to the lowest possible elevation and prohibit Verizon’s ability to increase the height at a future date.

This tower will be an eyesore for the residents of Scarborough, public views from Scarborough Beach, Pine Point, Ferry Beach and visitors to the marsh for years to come. There are other locations and other solutions.

Is this really the best we can do?

Francis von Stade

To the editor,

I was surprised that the sanitary district went ahead and signed a lease with Verizon without first fully vetting exactly what sort of 100-foot tower would be erected. There are three types: monopole, guyed, and lattice, each with different profiles that would stand tall against the Scarborough Marsh skyline.

Many believe all are poor choices, especially since no evidence of proven need for the local community exists for the tower in the first place.

Worse yet, once the tower is in and operable, it can stay forever. All Verizon has to do is prove there is call traffic on the tower and it stays. Forever.

And Uncle Sam has pre-permissioned towers to grow taller. Permissions are built in so that the cell tower can increase in height to 120 feet and the sanitary district nor the town of Scarborough could do anything about it. One-hundred fifty feet is the maximum cell tower height under federal current law, so it could climb as high as 150 feet. Take a look for yourself: Section 332(c)(7) of the Communications Act preserves state and local authority over zoning and land use decisions for personal wireless service facilities, but sets forth specific limitations on that authority. Specifically, a state or local government may not unreasonably discriminate among providers of functionally equivalent services, may not regulate in a manner that prohibits or has the effect of prohibiting the provision of personal wireless services, must act on applications within a reasonable period of time, and must make any denial of an application in writing supported by substantial evidence in a written record. The statute also preempts local decisions premised directly or indirectly on the environmental effects of radio frequency (RF) emissions, assuming that the provider is in compliance with the commission’s RF rules.

Allegations that a state or local government has acted inconsistently with Section 332(c)(7) are to be resolved exclusively by the courts (with the exception of cases involving regulation based on the health effects of RF emissions, which can be resolved by the courts or the commission). Thus, other than in RF emissions cases, the commission’s role in Section 332(c)(7) issues is primarily one of information and facilitation.

Section 1455(a) of the Communications Act, enacted as part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, establishes a further limitation on state and local land use authority over certain wireless facilities. Specifically, it provides that a state or local government may not deny and shall approve any eligible facility request for a modification of an existing wireless tower or base station that does not substantially change the physical dimensions of such tower or base station, and defines eligible facility requests as including requests for the collocation, removal, or replacement of transmission equipment.

Here’s hoping the folks at the sanitation district will keep a close eye – and continue to keep a close eye – on exactly what they permit Verizon to do in the future.

Please keep the cell tower(s) off the marsh.

Tim Fahey

To the editor,

Marvin Gates wrote a thought-provoking opinion piece in the Nov. 16 Leader about the importance of standing up for the Scarborough Marsh in the face of Verizon’s plans to build a cell tower on it.

It is frustrating that the town council, planning board and sanitary district seem to have sided with Verizon, putting corporate interests ahead of conservation.

And perhaps even more frustrating: the tower is intended to serve other towns across the water – Old Orchard Beach and Saco – not just the Scarborough Marsh area, which has a very limited population. There are other location possibilities that would serve this area of Scarborough and its beaches – and yet, due to a poorly written ordinance, the marsh has been chosen as the prime location.

I hope that this project is not too far gone to stop – but if a tower is built, I pray that at the very least the town council, planning board and sanitary district will take significant steps to limit the visual and environmental impact of the tower, by mandating a stealth design, putting limits on the height and ensuring that the placement is well buffered by trees.

Once a tower is built – if it is built – there will be no turning back.

Elizabeth von Stade

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