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Alternative site for cell tower mulled

January 13, 1998

Alternative site for cell tower mulled

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Harpers Ferry residents moaned in horror as if they were watching a slasher flick Monday night, but what they were seeing was slides of cellular phone towers across the country.

About 40 people packed into the Harpers Ferry Town Hall meeting room to discuss the possibility of U.S. Cellular using the town's water tower site as a location instead of constructing a 260-foot-high tower off U.S. 340 in the middle of a Civil War battlefield.

Paul Rosa, a consultant in the cellular phone industry, said a cellular phone tower at the water tower site could be constructed so it would blend in with the trees and not be noticeable.

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He said there was no way to hide the tower at the U.S. 340 site.

Because the water tower site is atop a hill, the cellular towers would not have to be as high, Rosa said.

The cellular equipment either could be put on the existing water tower, or it could be put on a tower made to look like a tree, complete with fake bark and limbs, Rosa said.

Rosa said solutions need to be found, but he believes personal communication devices eventually will make cellular phones obsolete.

"Cellular is locked into a dinosaur technology," Rosa said.

Rosa said personal communication devices use smaller towers and the equipment that enables them to operate fits in a cabinet, while most cellular phone towers are built over 10-foot-by-14-foot buildings.

Harpers Ferry Mayor Kip Stowell said an agreement with a cable television company years ago allowed a cable tower to be built on the water tower site, and no one sees it.

Stowell said a Thursday meeting between U.S. Cellular officials and town officials is planned to discuss the possibility of the water tower site being used.

Scot Faulkner, president of Friends of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, said the community either can decide that the water tower site is an alternative they can live with or they can fight a legal battle that could drag out for years.

Faulkner said the Federal Communications Commission will make U.S. Cellular "run a gantlet" of regulations before the tower can be built at the site off U.S. 340.

An appeal hearing is set for Feb. 19 before the zoning appeals board. The hearing is on the Dec. 9 Planning Commission decision to allow a cellular phone tower to be built at that site, Faulkner said.

"We may not kill it, but we may delay it forever," Faulkner said.

Faulkner said that the "carrot" to U.S. Cellular is construction of a tower at the water tower site that "everyone can live with."

Don Campbell, superintendent of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, said the needs of U.S. Cellular and the needs of the park service to protect the park's historical and environmental integrity can be met through a compromise.

The park service would work with U.S. Cellular to get FCC approval if an appropriate tower is built at an alternative site, Campbell said.

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