STARKS — Construction of a long-debated cellphone tower on Abijah Hill Road appears poised to move forward after a decision by the state’s highest court upheld a permit for the tower granted by the Starks Planning Board in 2013.

Local approval of the tower was appealed numerous times by the owners of property bordering the site of the proposed tower, who argued that it would negatively affect their scenic view and posed health risks.

“I understand this is pretty much the green light to proceed with construction of the cellphone tower,” said First Selectman Paul Frederic.

Last week the Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the planning board’s decision and rejected an appeal from Harry and Cindy Brown, the neighbors opposed to the tower. The decision, handed down Tuesday, stated that the Browns did not bring up their concerns over the way the town appeals board handled the case soon enough.

In their appeal filed with the Maine supreme court in September, the Browns argued that the Starks Appeals Board should have conducted a completely fresh look at the case.

Instead, the appeals board said it was not going to re-try the case, look at documents or consider issues not considered by the planning board. Instead, the appeals board said it would consider procedural issues and whether state and federal laws and the rules of town government were followed. In an unsigned decision, the justices said that since the Browns failed to object when the appeals board said it would not consider their arguments against the cell tower, there was no legal ground for appeal.

Cindy Brown declined to comment on the case.

In July 2013, when the tower was first proposed in the Somerset County town, the Browns and others voiced opposition to the 195-foot-tall tower, saying it posed visual and health concerns, even though under federal law the town cannot consider health concerns in the telecommunications permitting process.

Selectmen at the time said the tower would improve emergency response by providing better cellphone coverage and would be an incentive for more people and businesses to move to the area.

The debate led to several public meetings and a request, led by the Browns, for a moratorium on telecommunications towers that ultimately failed. Cindy Brown was also charged with assault in September 2013 after she allegedly spat on Frederic outside a planning board meeting in which officials were discussing the tower. She ultimately pleaded guilty to the charge as part of a plea deal in which she was given the opportunity to have her record cleared after a probationary period.

The tower was approved by the planning board in August 2013, but construction has been delayed by a series of appeals filed by the Browns, including with the Starks Board of Appeals, Somerset County Superior Court and the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Frederic said he was not sure what the timeline for construction of the tower looks like currently, but said he believes there are no more appeals pending. A spokesman for Bay Communications, the company proposing the tower, could not be reached for comment.

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

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