SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The Federal Communication Commission has sided with the National Park Service (NPS) in its request for a visual assessment of a proposed cell tower.
A 195-foot transmission tower proposed for a site on Freeman Ridge Road was approved by the town’s Planning Board in May. Located 200 feet from an existing tower on the same road, the proposed site is already under a lease agreement between property owner Kenneth Hutchins and BRT Group LLC of Boca Raton, Fla.
In the original proposal for the tower, the structure would be built 0.2 miles from Acadia National Park. Other transmission towers built on Mount Desert Island typically are 125 feet high, at least 70 feet shorter than this proposed structure.
In 2007, the National Register of Historic Places designated the historic trail system of Acadia National Park a historic district.
“Historic properties within the area of potential effect (APE) of a proposed telecommunications facility must be identified and a determination of effect for direct and indirect effects must be issued,” Acadia’s Management Assistant John Kelly argued in a June 20 letter to the FCC.
The FCC’s agreement with the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation requires a half-mile distance from a historic site.
“We believe that the APE for this project should be extended to four miles to consider the indirect effects of any listed and eligible properties within the park,” Kelly wrote.
In a response to the park’s request, FCC’s attorney advisor, Jennifer Flynn, reported that the BRT Group, which applied for the proposed site under the name Vertical Bridge Holdings, had not agreed to increase the proposed tower’s distance from the park.
In addition, the park requested that BRT Group “complete a visual impact assessment of the proposed tower using the full build-out scenario and any design techniques intended to mitigate visual impacts,” Flynn wrote.
If the historic preservation office and an applicant, in this case BRT Group, can not come to an agreement, the FCC is allowed to propose an alternative area of potential effect.
“In this case, we agree with NPS and the State Historic Preservation Office that the proposed tower, due to its height and elevation, may affect historic properties beyond the default 0.5-mile APE, and we are persuaded, at this time, that a 4-mile APE is justified,” Flynn wrote.
The developer estimates the self-supported structure to cost $300,000. According to Hutchins, who owns the land, the five-year lease can be renewed up to nine times.
When the site plan first came to the town’s planning board in October of 2017 they found the application incomplete. The board approved the application in May despite public opposition, finding it to be in compliance with the town’s land use ordinance. During that meeting, park officials voiced concern about buildings being erected on the site.