On November 15, the York (ME) Board of Selectmen decided to let voters make the call on whether to impose a town-wide moratorium on cell towers. The Portsmouth Herald reported that if voters authorize the moratorium come May 2022, it will be applied “retroactively to any and all applications for construction, modification or placement of wireless communication facilities in York submitted on or after the November 15 meeting.”
A citizen’s petition prompted the Board’s action, and residents wanted the moratorium to take effect immediately. However, according to Town Manager Steve Burns, legal counsel advised local leaders that a town-wide vote would be needed to establish the moratorium, and it was recommended that a retroactive clause be included. The Board wants the matter moved to May’s ballot, hoping for a larger turnout.
During Monday’s meeting, resident Caroline Macdonald said, “The town failed us. We believe that we deserve the opportunity for a special general referendum in the near future because the threat to the aesthetic integrity and property values of our neighborhood is imminent.”
Only one board member, Mike Estes, voted against the motion. “I hear what the petitioners have put forward to us, and I respect that, but I also respect that we need to have cell phone coverage,” he said. Estes added that delaying the vote until May means the town won’t have a “viable cell phone ordinance” for at least one year, which he calls a “mistake.”
David Maloney, director of local affairs for CTIA, representing the U.S. wireless communications industry, wrote a letter for public comment. He addressed the Board and opposed the citizen’s petition, reported the Herald.
“Not only does the petition seek unlawful results, but adoption of the petition will severely hamper the wireless industry’s ability to meet our customers’ expectations for superior wireless service and to deploy the latest technology to York’s businesses, residents and visitors,” Maloney wrote.
Based on the petition brought forward by York’s citizens, local state representatives are now drafting a bill to study the potential risks associated with 5G towers. The bill was rejected during the October session, but sponsors appealed and will resurrect it during the November session. “Because of the rapid rate of construction of cellular towers in Maine, it is critical to consider this bill now,” the appeal letter states.