W.Va. cell phone tower blocked

December 19, 1997


Staff Writer

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Opponents of a proposed 260-foot-tall cellular phone tower near Harpers Ferry, W.Va., have filed an appeal that temporarily blocks construction of the spire.

The appeal, filed Friday, asks the Jefferson County Board of Zoning Appeals to overturn the site plan approval for the U.S. Cellular tower that was granted by the county Planning Commission on Dec. 9.

"We're trying to force a dialogue," said Scot Faulkner, a tower opponent who hopes the appeal will serve as negotiation leverage between the opponents and U.S. Cellular to find a solution that is satisfactory to all involved.


But Markham L. Gartley, project manager for the U.S. Cellular, said he always has been willing to listen to the community's concerns.

"The appeal hasn't made me do that, nor does it keep me from doing it," he said.

Construction of the tower has not yet started, but U.S. Cellular had targeted its completion sometime during the first three months of 1998, Gartley said.

Faulkner believes the appeal should at least delay construction because a public hearing on the matter won't be held before the zoning appeals board until Feb. 19.

The appeal was filed by William Gavin, owner of the Cliffside Inn next to the tower sites. Gavin complained at a County Commissioners meeting this week that the tower would hurt tourism and his business, because guests would not want to look out their windows and see a strobe light instead of mountains.

Faulkner, who is president of the Friends of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, said the proposed tower will hurt the historical appreciation of the area, which is rich in Civil War heritage.

"The landscape is so close to what it used to be when those events occurred. To start ruining it is just horrible," he said.

The appeal claims the site plan approval was not consistent with the county's comprehensive plan and fails to comply with various county ordinances dealing with subdivisions, improvement locations permits and zoning.

Gartley said he wasn't surprised to hear the appeal was filed, but he defended the planning board's "very thorough" review of the site plan. He refused to speculate on how the appeals board would rule.

Tower opponents are hopeful that a zoning appeal ruling will be unnecessary and that a compromise can be reached.

"There are ways to deal with this thing without butting heads," Faulkner said.

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