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More in News
Cell tower decision still in court's hands
OTISFIELD — The fate of a 180-foot-high telecommunications tower to be built on Scribner Hill remains in the hands of the court, selectmen said at their March 6 meeting, after a resident asked where the issue currently stands.
The cell tower application, approved in January 2012 by the town's planning board, has since had four appeals by The Friends of Scribner Hill group and other individuals.
The group claims the planners did not follow town ordinances and the comprehensive plan when approving the tower construction and abutters to the tower were not properly notified. They requested that the decision go back to the planning board for a full hearing.
Opponents of the tower also raised concerns about its location, suggesting Poland residents on Thompson Lake, not Otisfield residents, would benefit most from the tower.
According to reports, every appeal to the board of appeals in 2012 was denied.
Selectboard Chair Hal Ferguson reported at the March 6 selectboard meeting that in Oxford County Superior Court January 31 Justice Robert Clifford signed an order that The Friends of Scribner Hill have no legal standing to force a reconsideration of the planning board's approval of the cell tower.
Selectman Rick Micklon said because The Friends of Scribner Hill is not a legal entity, Justice Clifford "will not recognize anything to do with The Friends of Scribner Hill."
On Tuesday, Micklon reported that plaintiff Joseph Brown is also no longer active in the case. He was dismissed from the case by Justice Clifford on Monday, he said, because he longer wanted to be a part of it.
According to Micklon, this leaves plaintiffs Kristin Roy, John Poto and James Gregory still active.
Ferguson said the plaintiffs have 45 days to respond to the order and then the town has 30 days to reply to the plaintiff's new amended motion. Then the plaintiffs have another 10 days to respond to the town's motion, Ferguson said.
According to reports, if the plaintiffs do not file a response within that time, the court will dismiss the case.
Reports also say that the judge dismissed with prejudice two complaints by the plaintiffs who alleged that the appeals board violated Maine's Freedom of Access Law and request for a trial of the facts, which means the plaintiffs are barred from bringing the same claim back to superior court.
Micklon said the next step is for Justice Clifford to comment on the planning board's findings of fact, but said he was not sure of the time frame.
Open to public
Selectmen agreed to provide an updated copy of the planning board manual, which includes state statutes regarding construction of a cell tower, at the town office for public viewing.
Whoever requests to view the manual, however, must be supervised by a town official, selectmen said, to ensure the manual is not tampered with in any way.
"Who's to say somebody is not going to take pages out of the planning board manual?" said Administrative Assistant Marianne Izzo-Morin.
Micklon said the town is not presupposing its residents would do so, but that it just wants to be cautious about people viewing town documents.
"We've got to have a policy for this stuff," Micklon said, or at least require all questions about town affairs be submitted in writing.
"How do we handle that request, from the time someone comes in to the time they leave?" he asked the selectmen.
"I would feel more comfortable if a person in the public, regardless if it's a person who is in litigation with us or not, has a question about the planning board or its procedures, go to the planning board meetings and ask the planning board," Micklon said, rather than questions be directed at selectmen.
"That way if they phrase a question, in such a way that the planning board doesn't feel comfortable [to answer] because it might be litigious... they can say, 'We think that's something that needs to be asked through the town attorney,'" Micklon said.
Selectmen said they expect a decision to be made about the cell tower within the next two to three months.