Planning Board Approves Site Plan for Public Safety Telecommunications Tower

Following a Public Hearing on Tuesday, November 17, 2020, the Planning Board voted unanimously in favor of granting the Town of Cape Elizabeth’s request for a Site Plan Review of a new 180' tall public safety telecommunications tower and a 16' by 11.5' support building.  The tower and support building, located at 8 Dennison Drive on the grounds of the Recycling Center, will be on town-owned land and will be used to co-locate the wireless telecommunication needs of three town departments: police, fire, and public works.

The current infrastructure for these departments are located at three sights, two of which are owned by private entities.  With the proposed project, the town’s communication needs will be centralized in one town-operated location with power-loss backup, 24-hours a day/365-days a year access to the site, and greater range of coverage.  In an October 22 letter to the Planning Board, included on page three of the Amended Site Plan materials, Town Manager wrote:

“A new tower is needed because an existing co-location contract the town had with a private commercial telecommunications provider has expired.  A new co-location offer was explored, however it did not meet public safety needs, including but not limited to equivalent coverage, town monitored back up power, and unlimited site access.”

When speaking at the November 17 Planning Board meeting, Sturgis added that the project will provide a “critical improvement to public safety and public works infrastructure and improve the town’s ability to protect public safety, health, and welfare.”

The proposed project was included in the Fiscal Year 2021 Municipal General Fund Budget, approved by the council during the May 27 Town Council Special Meeting. [See article]  The Town of Cape Elizabeth provided the Planning Board with an overview of the project during a September 1 workshop.  The Planning Board deemed the project’s application complete a the October 20 meeting and held a public site visit on October 27.  The plans were next reviewed by the Conservation Committee on November 10.  After learning that a grassed greenbelt trail popular with cross country skiers would be relocated from the site to the south with the same width and finish, the committee voted 5-0 in approval of the project. Finally, with no comments at the Public Hearing on November 17, the Planning Board moved forward with their approval.

The proposed project will be contained within a fenced area 8 feet high and approximately 60 by 60 feet square.  The support building and generator will be contained within the fenced site.  Additionally, the area will include two pads for future support buildings to accommodate potential co-location communication providers.  The generator will be used to provide emergency power during periods of power loss.  The generator will not produce noise in excess of 45 decibels at the property line.  Most importantly, the communication tower will greatly improve the signal range for the fire, police, and public works departments.

The two images below capture the current signal strength for the Cape Elizabeth Fire and Rescue Department and the Cape Elizabeth Police Department.  The areas with the darkest colors indicate the strongest signal levels.  Conversely, the lighter areas convey a poor signal.  Historically, as the image demonstrates, the neighborhoods with the weakest signals hug the coast or are furthest from the departments’ network hubs.

Cape Elizabeth Fire and Rescue Department existing signal strength above.  

Cape Elizabeth Police Department existing signal range above.

The image below indicates the signal strength expected with the proposed communication tower.

All images provided by Sebago Technics, Inc.

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