OTISFIELD — The Board of Selectmen and Friends of Scribner Hill have declared peace.
“Let's say the fat lady has sung. It's over,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Hal Ferguson said during a 90-minute discussion with the grassroots group that formed more than a year ago to legally oppose the siting process for a 180-foot telecommunications tower in Otisfield.
The town spent nearly $50,000 to defend itself against legal action by the Friends of Scribner Hill, saying the process that approved the U.S. Cellular application was faulty. The legal issue died in May when U.S. Cellular pulled out of the deal and the court dismissed the case as moot.
Wednesday night, group members came to the board to demand they be seated on a Telecommunications Ordinance review committee. They also asked to insert an article into the annual town meeting warrant for a six-month moratorium on cell-tower application approvals.
Although selectmen said they would not open up a newly formed telecommunications ordinance review committee to allow another member in, they encouraged Scribner Hill members to share their information with the committee at public meetings that are set to begin in September.
The Ordinance Review Committee will revisit the Telecommunications Ordinance, which all agreed is flawed. At least one public hearing will be held to discuss the revised ordinance and all meetings are open to the public.
Once their work is completed, it's expected to go before town meeting for approval.
The board told Scribner Hill members Kristen Roy, John Poto and James Gregory that their goal to have a six-month moratorium on cell-tower application approvals until the ordinance could be rewritten must go through a special town meeting because the June 29 annual town meeting warrant had been closed and posted.
"U.S. Cellular is gone. What remains is between us as a town," said Poto, whose opposition to the plan initiated the formation of the Friends of Scribner Hill more than a year ago.
"We're not all against you guys. We're just not. We're just not," Selectman Rick Micklon said. "We know the ordinance needs to be tightened up."
During the past year, Friends of Scribner Hill filed four appeals, saying proper notification of abutters was not given, the Planning Board failed to meet some criteria set in the town's Telecommunications Ordinance and the Planning Board failed to address residents' concerns.
The case eventually was taken over by Oxford County Superior Court. On Jan. 31, Justice Robert Clifford ruled that Friends of Scribner Hill was an unincorporated association and did not have the standing to challenge the Board of Appeals decision last spring that upheld the Planning Board's January 2012 approval to build the tower.
The judge also dismissed two complaints by plaintiffs, who alleged violation of Maine's Freedom of Access Act and a request for a trial of the facts. The plaintiffs and defendants were awaiting a decision by Clifford when U.S. Cellular pulled out of the process.