OTISFIELD — The Board of Appeals on Tuesday unanimously voted to deny an appeal of the Planning Board's decision to approve a permit to construct a communications tower on Scribner Hill.
The decision followed 90 minutes of fact-finding and discussion.
“It was difficult, but I feel we made the right decision,” appeals board member Anne Pastore said. She, interim Chairman Marianne Izzo-Morin, interim Vice Chairman Sharon Matthews and alternate member Don Mixer made the announcement before some 35 residents and town officials in the Otisfield Community Hall on Route 121.
On March 6, the appeals board heard testimony on the administrative appeal submitted by John Poto, a Cobb Hill Road resident and former Planning Board member. Poto asserted that the Planning Board misinterpreted the town's wireless telecommunications facility siting ordinance when it granted a permit to U.S. Cellular on Jan. 17 for a 180-foot tower off Scribner Hill Road.
Poto has 45 days to appeal the decision with the Maine Superior Court. He said after the meeting that he has not decided what he will do.
He and members of the Friends of Scribner Hill, who signed Poto’s administrative appeal, have hired an attorney, according to a letter received by the Board of Appeals.
In the decision, the appeals board made 23 individual “facts of finding.” Each was read into the record and individually voted on and discussed by the board.
The facts of findings included statements relating to testimony given at the administrative appeals hearing two weeks ago and previous public meetings. They included statements such as the code enforcement officer saying he was satisfied that he had sufficient evidence that the intent of both the cell tower ordinance and the town’s comprehensive plan was followed.
Another fact of finding was that Poto did not attend any of the Planning Board meetings pertaining to the tower and based his testimony at the administrative appeals hearing on the minutes of the Planning Board meetings.
Appeals board members also provided other facts, including that the Planning Board discussed concealment of the tower and that Poto questioned the need for a 180-foot high tower.
Following the votes on the 23 facts of finding, the chairman then read into the record certain statements made by abutters at the administrative appeals hearing. They included a statement that some abutters were not properly notified of the public hearing and questions abutters had about the tower’s impact on water and concealment of the tower.
These were not “facts of finding,” Izzo-Morin said, but rather statements that the board felt should be entered into the official record of the meeting.
Each board member affirmed they did not believe Poto offered testimony or evidence that the Planning Board misinterpreted the town’s communications ordinance.
If constructed, the tower will be the first in Otisfield and accommodate communications equipment from other cellular companies and the Otisfield Fire Department. Construction is set to start in June and take five weeks.