Newburgh residents concerned about cellular tower proposal

NEWBURGH, Maine (WABI) - Some residents in Newburgh are looking for answers after receiving letters from the town about a proposal to build a cell phone tower.

As Joy Hollowell reports, they feel like plans were already in place before they ever knew about it.

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You may have seen the No Cell Phone Tower signs along Route 69 in Newburgh. They were put up by a group of residents upset about an application to construct an almost 200-foot tall Verizon cellular tower near their homes.

"First time we heard about it was by registered letter on June 4th, about 50 hours before the first planning board meeting," says Arnold Whittaker.

He and his wife Sandy are among approximately 30 homeowners along the Carmel Road North who received the letters. Sandy has health concerns because she runs a daycare on her property.

"We've raised our meat here on our property, we're bee keepers, we grow over 3,000 pounds of food every year to feed these kids as naturally and organically as possible," she says.

Arnie believes the town of Newburgh was in talks with Verizon long before they were notified.

"They have submittals and they have 12/14/17 for review, 1/18/18 revise, 2/14/18 revise and 4/25/18 review to new location," he reads from a public document. "Something as important as this affecting a neighborhood for property devaluation, health issues, aesthetics, people should have been in at ground level."

Newburgh had no ordinance when it came to erecting cell phone towers. But last Thursday, the town voted to enact a land use ordinance, three days after a scheduled public hearing. Neighbor Kathy Vanaria says even that was hinky. "When you look at the agenda for the town meeting, the line just says vote on new town ordinance," she says. "It doesn't say vote on whether we can put a cell phone tower in your backyard. The town taxpayers have not been properly informed. The only big thing that was supposed to have been going on in town this year was dealing with some feisty beavers. They didn't make any mention about a cell tower."

The Whittakers have contacted lawyers, legislators and started a petition.

"We really don't know what we can do, what legally we can do," says Sandy Taylor-Whittaker.

"It's turned our lives right upside down in just the course of a couple of weeks," adds her husband." Loss of sleep and just stressed right out. It could change our lives dramatically if they put that in our neighborhood."
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TV-5 spoke with Newburgh Town Manager Cynthia Grant who said the cell phone tower is still in the preliminary stages. She chose not to make any other comment at this time.

Phone calls to Planning Board Manager Ryan Ward were not returned.

According to the The Telecommunications Act of 1996, Section 704 of the Act provides:
"No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission's regulations concerning such emissions."

If you'd like to contact Arnie Whittaker about the cellular tower petition, he can be reached at 234-2059.