Jefferson Co. Commission OK's moratorium

February 11, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

Jefferson Co. Commission OK's moratorium

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Commission voted 4-1 Wednesday to place a moratorium on communication towers until the Planning Commission comes up with a draft ordinance to regulate them.

The county commissioners said they did not like the idea of enacting a moratorium, but it is necessary to stop other cellular phone companies from erecting towers before the county has an ordinance in place regulating them.

"A moratorium is a very desperate, last-ditch kind of thing," said County Commissioner James K. Ruland.

Currently, cellular phone towers must meet only setback and road requirements in the county.

The moratorium will expire on July 1 if a draft ordinance has not been presented to the county commissioners by then. The moratorium will be lifted before July 1 if an ordinance is approved.


The measure does not include the planned tower next to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, which triggered much of the public outcry for a moratorium.

County officials said U.S. Cellular already has a building permit for the proposed tower, so it is not affected.

However, U.S. Cellular officials continue to meet with the National Park Service and others in the community to try to work out an alternative solution to placing the proposed 260-foot-high tower in the middle of a Civil War battlefield.

On Tuesday, the county Planning Commission voted 5-4 to recommend the county commissioners enact a moratorium.

At one point during Wednesday's meeting, Ruland wanted to send the proposal back to the Planning Commission to have the moratorium deadline moved up at least a month.

Planning Director Paul Raco said that could delay the process, possibly by as much as 45 days, rather than speed it up.

Raco said he believed there should be no problem getting the ordinance drafted before July 1.

Ruland backed off from his proposal, saying he did not want to delay the process.

County Commissioner Dean Hockensmith voted against the moratorium.

Hockensmith said he believes the county is opening the door to allowing any group with a complaint to seek a moratorium, "even if they don't like the house being built next door."

County Commissioner President Greg Lance said the county needs to do something to protect the long-term interests of the area.

"A three- or four-month period is not a high price to pay to protect our future," Lance said.

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