SCARBOROUGH — The town’s Ordinance Committee said that it is willing to put in the work to draft a 5G ordinance that will serve as a fair and equitable compromise between residents and telecommunication providers.

On July 9, the committee discussed issues that have come up through not having a clear ordinance with the new mobile fifth-generation (5G) technology.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 2019, the state approved An Act To Facilitate the Deployment of Small Wireless Facilities in Maine, which “provides that a small wireless facility must be a permitted use within the public right-of-way, subject to any duly adopted, nondiscriminatory conditions otherwise applicable to permitted uses within the municipality and consistent with state and federal law, including, without limitation, any permitting requirements in the Maine Revised Statutes.”

Town Planner Jay Chace provided an update on when Scarborough began looking into the new technology.

“The state statute was amended in 2019, and following that I received an email from our IT director, informing me that this change was occurring and this technology was popping up across the country and something we might want to think about,” he said. “Following that, we received some phone calls from different providers, and I started to do some research to the best I could.”

“We really took a step back and tried to have a better understanding of where we stood with the existing tools and regulations the town has with regards to 5G,” Chace said. “The state statute refers to these types of facilities only in the public right-of-way.”

Recently, it has come to the town’s attention that 5G utilities may be popping up in neighborhoods, Chace said.

“Where I’m seeing a little bit of a divide is around placement of the facilities and what is the town’s interest and/or ability in terms of location, and that has to do with a number of things: separation from residences, scenic or ecological concerns,” he said.

Councilor Betsy Gleysteen also presented ordinance revisions that she believed were necessary to keep neighborhood aesthetics intact and preserve properties, like historic ones.

Various telecommunication companies had representatives speak before the committee, saying that they were willing to work with the town on a fair, non-discriminatory ordinance.

Owen Smith, president of AT&T Northeast, said that cell traffic for the company in Maine has only increased since 2007.

“We appreciate you letting us work in the town of Scarborough,” he said. “We hope the ordinance will provide Scarborough with reasonable oversight, safe installation.”

Jim Cohen, Portland attorney representing Verizon, said that it was important for the town to amend the ordinance in a way that ensured small wireless facilities are treated in a non-discriminatory manner.

Jean Marie Caterina, chair of the committee, said that currently, the 5G facilities are like “the wild west.”

“My concern is missing out on fees,” she said. “I do get where the telecom guys and girls are coming from with ‘you got to be careful with discriminating fees.’ I think we need to raise all the fees so they’re even at this level.”

Chace said that he has been in touch with planning departments in Lewiston and Old Orchard Beach, which has given him an idea on what may work for Scarborough. In Old Orchard Beach, each provider needed to go through the planning board, which was seen as not the most convenient process.

The committee agreed that it would continue the conversation in September, when every member had a chance to thoroughly look through proposed revisions.

“I’d like to make sure whatever process is fair and equitable, not only to the providers but to our residents, and I know that can be very subjective,” Councilor and committee member Don Hamill said.

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