OTISFIELD — Kristen Roy of Friends of Scribner Hill is calling on the town Board of Appeals again to do the “moral” thing and send the case for a telecommunications tower on Scribner Hill back to the Planning Board for a full review.
That action, she said, could end what has turned into a "long legal battle" between the town and Friends of Scribner Hill.
Roy issued the statement this week after town officials agreed to a third Board of Appeals hearing. Oxford County Superior Court Justice Robert Clifford told town officials to decide whether to hold the hearing. It is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 18 in the East Otisfield Community Hall on Route 121.
“If the Board of Appeals is truly unbiased, their moral compass and legal obligation will guide them to listen to what we have to say and remand this back to the Planning Board, who need to address the needs of the people and protect our natural resources, as well as the health and safety of our citizens,” Roy wrote in an email to the Sun Journal. “That would be the only moral thing to do.”
The issue has dragged on since January when the Planning Board approved the permit application by U.S. Cellular for a 180-foot tower to hold equipment for cellular phone companies and the Otisfield Fire Department.
Since then, Friends of Scribner Hill and others have filed four appeals, three with the Appeals Board and one with Superior Court in Paris. The complaints to the Appeals Board said, among other matters, that planners did not follow town ordinance and the comprehensive plan in making their decision. The first two appeals were denied.
The appeal to the court, which has taken over the case, asked that the court send the case back to planners for a full hearing. The court will wait to render a decision until the Oct. 18 hearing, Selectman Rick Micklon said.
In her statement Roy said the issue involves not only the Friends of Scribner Hill but the entire town and “is a matter of morality.”
“Is it also morally acceptable for the Planning Board to disregard the intent of the citizens when they voted approval of an ordinance that was clearly intended to protect the health, safety and welfare of the entire community?” she asked. “The Planning Board neglected to even consider the needs of the citizens.”
The group has said it is not against improved wireless communication, but believes the Planning Board failed to give due diligence in the siting approval for the tower.
“If the town officials are truly concerned with public safety, they need to remand this back for review, demand that a thorough, independent professional review be conducted and make certain that the tower will truly serve the needs of the community. This would be the quickest and least expensive way to end a long legal battle,” she concluded.