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Crane gives preview of cell tower's visual impact

January 08, 1998

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Cliffside Inn owner William Gavin thought a cellular phone tower on the property next to his hotel would look bad when he first heard about the proposal.

On Thursday, he got a better idea of what the planned tower would look like as a crane went up 215 feet into the air as part of a visual impact study.

"It was terrible. It's a lot worse than anybody envisioned it would be," Gavin said.

The top of the crane was about one foot around and went up about 215 feet. The planned tower would be 260 feet high and would have an antenna about eight feet wide.

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The crane was visible from a fast-food restaurant miles away in Charles Town, W.Va., and was visible from most of the homes in Harpers Ferry and Bolivar, W.Va., said Scot Faulkner, president of the Friends of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

Those opposed to the tower's location remain optimistic an alternative site will be found.

U.S. Cellular plans to build the tower off U.S. 340 just outside Bolivar, and in the middle of what was a Civil War battlefield during the Sept. 12-15, 1862, Confederate siege of Harpers Ferry.

Opponents have said the tower would mar the scenic view of the Harpers Ferry area and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Harpers Ferry Mayor Kip Stowell said he has talked with U.S. Cellular officials about putting the tower at the site of the water tower on top of Bolivar Heights.

The water tower is owned by Harpers Ferry. A cable television tower there is hidden behind a screen of trees.

If the cellular phone tower were put at a higher elevation, it would not have to be built as high to transmit the same signal.

"I'm still optimistic on saving the view shed and the gateway to West Virginia," Stowell said.

The Jefferson County Planning Commission, which meets Tuesday, is expected to impose a moratorium on any further cellular phone towers until a county ordinance to govern them is in place. Faulkner said any moratorium would not block U.S. Cellular from building on an alternative site.

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