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FCC requirements outlined for tower

December 29, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

BOLIVAR, W.Va. - The Federal Communications Commission sent a letter Dec. 23 requiring that U.S. Cellular's plan for a proposed wireless communication tower go through historic reviews before it is granted approval for construction.

The letter also was sent to the National Park Service and the historic preservation commissions in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland.

Since the proposed 260-foot tower would be visible in all three states, all three states would have to be involved in the historic review, said Scot Faulkner, president of the Friends of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.


"We see it not as a shot across their bows, but as a shot into their engine room," Faulkner said.

The FCC wrote in the Dec. 23 letter, a reply to a Dec. 19 letter from the National Park Service, that U.S. Cellular would have to meet the requirements of a federal law protecting historic areas.

U.S. Cellular's archaeological review, prepared by a firm in Morgantown, W.Va., did not mention that the proposed tower site is in the middle of a Civil War battlefield.

The 24-page document prepared by Big Blue Archaeological Review mentions that Civil War battles had occurred in Jefferson County, but does not mention that the largest Civil War battle in West Virginia occurred where the proposed tower is planned off U.S. 340, just outside of Bolivar.

Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson forced the surrender of the federal garrison at Harpers Ferry during a siege Sept. 12-15, 1862. The battle, in which about 38,000 men were engaged, led to the surrender of 12,500 Union soldiers.

Officials with Big Blue did not return phone calls Monday.

Most of the tower also would be visible throughout Harpers Ferry, W.Va., which has raised the ire of historical preservationists, tourism officials and Civil War enthusiasts.

Nearly all of the U.S. Cellular archaeology report deals with the fact there was no evidence of Neolithic or Native American ruins at the site.

None of the 52 titles in the extensive bibliography at the end of the report are Civil War books.

The archaeological review reports that an inspection of the site had been made by walking over the land. No relics were found during the inspection.

Faulkner, an amateur archaeologist, said that does not surprise him because relics often are found a foot to two feet below the ground.

No work is in progress at the site. The Dec. 9 Planning Commission approval of the project is under appeal by William Gavin, owner of the neighboring Cliffside Inn and Conference Center.

A hearing before the Jefferson County Board of Zoning Appeals is not expected before Feb. 19.

Faulkner said he hopes the appeal is not needed at that time because he is optimistic a compromise can be worked out for a different site.

Faulkner said that about 10 years ago, a cable television tower project was delayed in the courts for years before a compromise solution was found that screened the tower behind water towers and pine trees.

Faulkner said he believes a solution can be found that will provide cellular phone service while at the same time protecting the historic and scenic aspects of the area.

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