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Cellular towers hard to disguise

December 17, 1997

Cellular towers hard to disguise

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The project manager for a planned 260-foot-high cellular phone tower next to Harpers Ferry, W.Va., said there is no way to make the tower less intrusive.

"It's difficult when you have a tower to disguise it. It is what it is," said Markham L. Gartley, project manager for U.S. Cellular.

At an October meeting with the Jefferson County Planning Commission, Gartley said there were ways to make the towers less intrusive, including putting them on existing structures such as church steeples, water towers, or by designing them in ways that they did not look like steel towers.

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But Gartley said on Wednesday that a survey of the Harpers Ferry-Bolivar area did not show any buildings on which the cellular communication equipment could be placed instead of using the planned tower.

Currently, the towers are not covered by zoning ordinances, other than for fence and setback requirements.

The Jefferson County Commissioners are expected to discuss this morning a possible moratorium on communication towers until the ordinance is drafted.

Gartley said a tower is a commercial building, like others on the same stretch of the road. He agreed that the other commercial buildings probably are not as high as the communication tower will be, but that the company will provide a needed service for cell phone customers.

Harpers Ferry Mayor Kip Stowell said the tower will destroy the scenic view of Harpers Ferry.

"You advertise the place is a serene, historic area, and then you make it look just like Gaithersburg," Stowell said.

Scot Faulkner, president of the Friends of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, said that attorneys representing his group and the National Park Service plan to fight the tower's construction in court if necessary.

"We're prepared to stop them in their tracks until a resolution is found. We're going to look at all options. The best option would involve both sides not having to spend a lot of money on attorneys," Faulkner said. "Harpers Ferry is historic and we're not going to let a short-term technology that will be obsolete in five years destroy that," Faulkner said.

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