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Temporary phone tower going up in March

February 16, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

Temporary phone tower going up in March

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - U.S. Cellular is reconsidering its plan for a 260-foot cellular phone tower near the Cliffside Inn and Conference Center, and looking at an alternate site near the town's existing water tanks.

At a meeting Monday at the Harpers Ferry Town Council chambers, U.S. Cellular representatives and members of local businesses and environmental and historical organizations went over a plan to erect a test tower near the tanks, where a microwave tower for cable television already exists.

A test tower with a 10-foot to 11-foot antenna should be up by mid-March, with technical results available by the end of March.

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"It gives us a technical test for the coverage, but also a visual test," said Mark Gartley of U.S. Cellular. "I'm encouraged by the cooperation."

U.S. Cellular originally wanted to construct the tower near the Cliffside Inn, owned by William Gavin. After the Jefferson County Planning Commission approved U.S. Cellular's site plan on Dec. 9, Gavin filed an appeal with the Board of Zoning Appeals contesting the building permit.

Matt Ward, Gavin's attorney, said the tower topped with a strobe light would not only hinder the panoramic view, but disturb Gavin's customers.

The Jefferson County Commission on Wednesday placed a moratorium on communication towers until the Planning Commission comes up with a draft ordinance to regulate them.

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.

Monday's meeting was meant to come up with a compromise that businesses, residents and U.S. Cellular can live with, said Harpers Ferry Mayor Kip Stowell.

"We're not against technology, because we all will eventually have the phones. But we are opposed to putting it right in the view of Harpers Ferry," Stowell said.

A hearing on Gavin's appeal is scheduled for Thursday, but will likely be postponed for 60 days while negotiations continue.

Ward said a continuance would give U.S. Cellular and community members time to look at solutions.

"A lot of people are opposed to the tower, but we recognize cellular phones are inevitable is this part (of the Eastern Panhandle,)" said Scot Faulkner, a member of the Friends of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. "This is an ongoing process that not only resolves this particular issue, but the long-term issue."

Establishing regulations on where cell towers can be erected will lay the ground rules for future companies, Faulkner said.

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