2015-10-09 / Community

Court rules against Cape in cell-tower case

The courts have ruled Cape Elizabeth was in the wrong when it denied a permit to Verizon Wireless, which asked to post a communication antennae on an old water tower in the Shore Acres subdivision.

In a Sept. 30 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Jon D. Levy upheld Verizon’s appeal of a decision by Cape Code Enforcement Officer Ben McDougal, made in March 2014, to deny a permit for installation of three antennas on the 80-foot-tall tower. The former water tower, located on Avon Road, is owned by the Portland Water District. It stopped using the tower for water storage in 2007 but reportedly continues to utilize it for a communications array of its own, used to collect data from sewage pump stations in the area.

In denying Verizon’s permit application, McDougal said the water tower did not qualify as an “alternate tower structure” as defined in the town’s zoning ordinance. The Cape Elizabeth Zoning Board of Appeals upheld that decision in May 2014 and, in June 2014, refused a request filed by Verizon asking it to reconsider its vote.

In his ruling, Levy said the water tower does qualify as an alternative to a traditional cell tower by the simple logic that, “water towers are structures that are constructed and generally used for purposes other than antenna support.” That includes the Portland Water District structure, he wrote, “even if it is no longer used for water storage.”

However, Levy did uphold the town’s contention that Verizon’s application was not subject to the Spectrum Act, a federal law that preempts local authority to block placement of wireless equipment on existing structures that already house such equipment.

According to Town Manager Michael McGovern, McDougal has said he will now refer Verizon’s application to the planning board for site-plan review. Cape zoning rules give the planning board authority over alternative cell tower structures in cases where concealment of antennas is not complete.

“If the Planning Board approves the application, I will issue the building permit for the antennas and associated ground structure,” McDougal wrote in an email.

Cape Police to host safeguarding forum

The Cape Elizabeth Police Department will host a community forum entitled “safeguarding your home and community,” on Thursday, Oct. 29. The hour-long event, to be held at the Town Center Fire Station, will kick off at 7 p.m. with Detective Mark Dorval and Community Liaison Officer David Galvan on hand to discuss crime prevention, crime reporting, and how to safeguard homes from theft.

“This is a great opportunity to bring forth any questions or issues concerning our community in regards to public safety,” the department said, in a press release announcing the event.

Recently, Cape has been best by in spike in home and vehicle burglaries. In September, a dozen such incidents have plagued neighborhoods along Shore and Mitchell Roads.

The thefts have had apparently little in common, with homes and vehicles hit both at night and during the day, and even with residents at home. According to Dorval, the thieves have been known to knock on doors to test it anyone is at home and, if not, simply walk in. To date, the thief, or thieves, have tended to prefer targets where doors are left unlocked, lifting cash and electronics as the booty of choice.

Firefighter contract signed

South Portland firefighters have a new three-year contract, good through June 30, 2018. The agreement, unanimously approved by the city council, also incudes a one-year extension of the previous contract, which had expired in 2014.

Among the contract highlights, firefighterswillgeta2percentpayraise retroactivetoJuly2014anda3percent hike payable back to July 2015. They also will enjoy 3 percent raises in July 2016 and July 2017.

Those increases will add $14,126 to the current city budget, while costing an extra $62,464 in next year’s projected salary increase, and an additional $87,952 in the FY 2018 city budget.

Fire Service workers also switched to a new health plan that includes some small increases in employee costs. New firefighters will be responsible for 3 percent of premiums for single coverage plans, while the cap on dependent and family plans has increased from 15 percent, to 17 percent of premium costs.

The city also has frozen its cash payment offered to employees who decline health coverage. The buyout is now “redlined” at 50 percent of what the city’s cost to cover the employee would, with no increases allowed until the that dollar amount falls to 39 percent of the city’s cost.

City winter parking ban amended

Regardless of one’s opinion on global climate change, or the causes of it, there seems little debate in South Portland that winter, while it is still coming, seems to come a little later each year.

Since the 1980s, the South Portland has enforced a parking ban on city streets from midnight to 6 a.m., from Nov. 1 to April 1. However, at the Oct. 5 city council meeting, the start date of the ban was pushed back to Dec. 1.

“We very seldom have a plowable storm in November,” City Manager Jim Gailey said. “It happens, but it is a rarity rather than a commonality.”

In addition, because winter parking has always been at a premium in South Portland, new off-street parking spots created in the last year on Waterman Drive have been offered up as places, “where the public can park during a snow event safely and without having an issues with tickets or being towed,” Gailey said. Spots at the public boat ramp near Bug Light Park also may now be used for storm parking, Gailey said.

“We’re also looking at a place or two on the west side of town,” he added, “but we still have not worked out all the particulars there. We will be prepared to make an announcement within the next two or three weeks, well in advance of the winter season.”

Councilor Maxine Beecher pointed out the city can still call an overnight parking ban before Dec. 1, in the event of a storm.

The change of date only affects the automatic ban.

Return to top