BIDDEFORD — It was February when the Biddeford City Council first discussed construction of a new tower that would provide greater coverage for cellular telephones.

At that time, council members endorsed the concept of a contract zone to allow the 140-foot tower to be built at 384 Hill St., an area that is not zoned for telecommunications towers.

The tower has since become a controversial topic, and on Tuesday, the council will make an initial decision on whether to approve a contract zone to allow its construction.

On June 4, following a public hearing on the issue where some residents voiced their opposition to the tower, the planning board voted 3-1 to grant site plan approval and recommend that the council approve the contract zone.

Several residents have taken a stand against the tower, saying they are concerned about the health benefits. On April 1, resident Gerard Martin told the council he was against the project because he is concerned about the negative health impacts.

He said he is currently battling cancer, and he lives only 530 feet from the site of the proposed cell tower.

“Living near that is just like a bomb to me,” said Martin. “Even if there’s the slightest chance this will give radiation to people, they don’t deserve that. It’s not something that should be near people.”

Resident Frank Novotny also opposes the cell tower. He cited several studies that show a link between cell towers and a greater incidence of cancer.

He said he is concerned about the effects on nearby residents, especially children, who he said are more susceptible to emissions from the towers. Novotny also said there are schools located within 2 1/2 miles of the proposed tower.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there is no conclusive evidence that cellular towers affect people’s health. The radio frequency used in wireless technology is not strong enough to affect the structure of atoms it contacts, according to the EPA.

For cell towers, radio frequency energy decreases rapidly with distance and ground-level exposures are typically well below exposure limits set by the Federal Communications Commission.

If the council approves the contract zone, the applicant, VC Properties, LLC, doing business as Mariner Tower, LLC, will purchase a 14-acre parcel from Gorham Savings Bank, and in turn sell the property to the city for $1.

The applicant would have a 10,000-square-foot easement on the property where the tower would be located, and the city would have use of the remainder of the property.

In addition, there would be space for four other providers to co-locate on the tower, and the city may install its own public safety and public works antennae as well.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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