Contempt vs. Compliance in Cell Tower Scenario

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Rockland, ME is poised to get a new 120 foot cell tower, an issue that was decided in Bay Communications LLC’s favor last fall. With the shot clock deadline approaching, the City Council and Planning Board have found themselves at odds, reports Bangor Daily News. In order to avoid a $1,000 a day fine, the City Council has asked a federal judge to allow them to bypass the Planning Board and begin construction of the cell tower. 

The City Council is asking that they be allowed to “direct the City’s Code Enforcement Department/Officer to issue the necessary building permits – without the board’s approval – immediately.” The Planning Board, meanwhile, has sought to uphold city zoning laws that would stop the project entirely. In previous discussions, the city had been advised that challenging the FCC was unlikely to result in a win, and Bay Communications and the City Council began working together. 

Eager to honor the agreement with Bay Communications, and avoid hefty fines, Rockland City Council member Ben Dorr noted, “I think it is very appropriate to give [the Planning Board] an apology. I don’t think it’s appropriate to give them legal control of this case.” Adding, “I think it would be appropriate … to issue these permits ourselves and circumnavigate the Planning Board and then do whatever repairing of that relationship we have to do.”

“I believe that what the council is trying to do is very pragmatic,” Rockland resident Tom Marshall commented. 

Meanwhile, members of the Planning Board who feel that they were not adequately consulted contend that the entire agreement must be scrapped. They are also seeking a legal remedy, asking a judge to nullify the previous agreement which they say forced them to approve a cell tower that did not meet city codes. The Planning Board issued an angry statement, asking how the City Council can expect them to face a contempt charge when they allege they were not properly consulted, according to the Daily News. 

The Bangor Daily News indicates that feelings in town are split between the two factions. Those who want better wireless service, and those hoping to avoid the fine, sit on one side of the fence. The other side is occupied by champions of Rockland zoning laws, and individuals whose property abuts the cell tower site. A legal decision will need to be reached soon, either favoring Bay Communications and the City Council and their building plans, or the Planning Board and their wish to cease construction.   

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