SCARBOROUGH — Town officials have tabled a proposal that would allow cell phone towers to be built in residential areas, after a group of residents and Planning Board members raised concerns.

The Town Council’s ordinance committee on Wednesday voted unanimously to postpone the proposed zoning changes indefinitely to give town officials more time to examine the issue.

The Town Council and Planning Board will meet at a Sept. 3 workshop to discuss restrictions on wireless towers built outside the industrial zone, the only area in which they are currently allowed. The proposal as currently written also would increase maximum tower heights from 100 feet to 150 feet and allow multiple cellphone companies to use the same towers.

“This is a tough place to be,” Town Councilor Katherine St. Clair said. “We’ve got some neighborhoods in this town that feel very strongly that they don’t want towers near their neighborhoods.”

For years, town officials have fielded complaints from residents about large sections of the town with inadequate or no cell phone coverage. But residents have also criticized a proposal to allow towers in residential zones, saying the structures are a better fit for industrial zones than for densely populated areas.

Town Planner Dan Bacon said town officials have the difficult task of “threading the needle” between improving cell coverage and considering impacts on scenic views and property values.

Scarborough hired a consultant to identify areas with spotty cell coverage and possible sites for towers designed to address those gaps, said Town Manager Tom Hall. He said there are no specific plans to build new towers in any of those areas.

One of those locations concerns Karen and Wayne Tanguay, who live near the town-owned Willey Field and playground. They say a tower built near their neighborhood would be visible above the tree line and drive property values down.

“This is a neighborhood. Kids play at the field and use the playground,” Karen Tanguay said. “Everyone was shocked when they heard about this.”

Although the ordinance committee spent much of the past year examining the zoning change, it wasn’t until a public hearing in July that organized opposition began to spread. About 30 people attended the Wednesday afternoon meeting and a dozen residents spoke against the changes. No one spoke in support.

“Life will go on if we don’t have a 100 percent cell phone signal wherever we go,” said Ted Bennett of Tenney Lane. “I don’t want (a tower) abutting my residential zone.”

Bacon, the town planner, suggested updating the proposal to address residents’ criticisms and Planning Board concerns that it would be difficult to enforce. He suggested additions: requiring cellphone companies to pursue co-location – several companies using one tower – before applying to build one; limiting tower height to 130 feet unless there are special circumstances where a 150-foot tower would be needed; and requiring greater setbacks and larger lots for towers in residential areas.

Bacon also suggested that the proposal allow lesser setbacks and have no minimum lot size in industrial zones to encourage the placement of towers there; require towers be mono-pole style so they have less impact visually; and require buffering and vegetative screening.

Town Council Chairman Richard Sullivan, an alternate on the ordinance committee, said the Sept. 3 workshop will allow the Town Council and Planning Board to work out how to make the ordinance best fit the needs of the town.

“They’re not going to be able to throw towers all over town,” he said.

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