Bald Rock Ruckus
Not far from my back door, somebody wants to build a cell-phone tower. The plan got whacked down (twice) by the Lincolnville town planning board, but then the board of appeals — voting 2 to 1 — reversed that decision and green-lighted the project. By the way, the chairman expressed his personal view that tower opponents are a bunch of “radical environmentalists.”
Some of my friends and neighbors got pretty upset about this. They banded together, made a web site, held some fund-raisers, and filed a lawsuit. Last week they won a significant victory, though perhaps not a final one — a judge in Waldo County Superior Court overturned the appeal board’s action, kicking the matter back to the town with instructions to deny the request for a permit to build the tower. The judge’s ruling is, of course, subject to appeal.
Like most places, we’ve got cell-phone towers sprouting up like mushrooms around here. What makes this particular project somewhat different — and what my friends are up in arms about — is the impact a 191-foot “monopole” would have on a distinctive swath of local scenery: the view from Bald Rock. (Check out Zane Kaminsky's photo below and more on Bald Rock.org.)
Kinda nice, isn’t it? Bald Rock is a small mountain about a mile inland from Penobscot Bay, and is part of Camden Hills State Park. It’s an easy climb — about 50 minutes from the trailhead to the peak — and the view, as you can see, it really splendid. U.S. Route 1 is somewhere down there, running along the coast, but almost completely hidden by trees. You can just glimpse the ferry terminal and the little strip of shops and restaurants at Lincolnville Beach. Apart from that, the landscape is pristine, little changed from the way it looked when Lincolnville was first settled over 200 years ago.
The cell tower would sit right in the middle of what I’ve learned to call the viewshed.
I don’t think this is a case of “radical environmentalism” — a talk-radio term that has no particular bearing on the affairs of this small town. I think it’s a case of conflicting visions, incompatible priorities. The landowner on whose property the tower would be built believes he has a right to do with his land as he pleases. The self-styled “Bald Rock Community” believes that this exceptional natural site — along with its million-dollar view — is a treasure belonging to everyone. (They also believe they’ve got the letter of the town planning code on their side, a feeling apparently shared by the Superior Court.)
I expect there will be an appeal. Which means my friends will need a lot more money. You can learn more about the whole thing here.
Richard Grant's novels include "Another Green World" (Alfred A. Knopf/ Random House) and "Tex and Molly in the Afterlife" (Avon/Morrow). A Mainer since 1988, he lives in Lincolnville.