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Jefferson planners set hearing on phone towers

January 14, 1998

Jefferson planners set hearing on phone towers

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Planning Commission voted Tuesday night to schedule a public hearing next month on an amendment to the zoning ordinance that would impose a temporary moratorium on new wireless communications towers.

The hearing will be held Feb. 10 at the commission's regular meeting and is in reaction to a proposal by U.S. Cellular for a 260-foot tower near Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

If the Planning Commission recommends approval of the amendment, it could be acted on by the County Commission on Feb. 12, according to Planning Director Paul Raco. The moratorium would run to July 1.

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That would give the Planning Commission breathing room to consider a draft of an ordinance governing wireless communication towers. Raco handed out a draft of the ordinance at the meeting.

"It's not public, as it's only a draft," Raco said of the document. The proposed ordinance does not have to be made public until a public hearing is scheduled, he told the commission.

"There's no sense in inflaming either side of the issue by making public some of the details you may not approve," he said.

The Planning Commission approved U.S. Cellular's site plan for the tower on Dec. 9, igniting opposition by historical preservationists, local politicians and businesses over the effect the tower might have on the tourist industry for Harpers Ferry and nearby historic sites.

The commission's decision is being appealed to the county's Board of Zoning Appeals by William Gavin, owner of the neighboring Cliffside Inn and Conference Center. A hearing is not expected before Feb. 19.

Tuesday's decision by the Planning Commission comes after a meeting Jan. 7 between U.S. Cellular, the National Park Service and the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, at which alternatives to the tower were discussed.

Harpers Ferry Mayor Kip Stowell said Tuesday night he's confident the various parties will reach an agreement for a suitable alternative to the proposed tower.

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