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Tower hearing delayed

March 19, 1998

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Jefferson County Board of Zoning Appeals hearing Thursday afternoon on a planned cellular telephone tower near Harpers Ferry, W.Va., turned heated until the meeting was continued to give attorneys a chance to review documents.

Foes of U.S. Cellular's plans to build a 260-foot-high tower on a Civil War battlefield just outside the park's boundaries initially asked for a postponement of Thursday's hearing, saying the two sides were working toward a compromise.

After the Board of Zoning Appeals decided to postpone the hearing until April 3, the board heard arguments from attorneys on whether the board has jurisdiction to hear the case.

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The Jefferson County Planning Commission granted a permit on Dec. 9 to allow U.S. Cellular to build the tower.

William Gavin, owner of the Cliffside Inn, which sits next to the planned tower site, filed an appeal, saying the Planning Commission erred in granting the building permit.

David Layva, an attorney representing the commission, said the zoning appeals board did not have jurisdiction because the case does not involve the setback or fencing requirements for the site.

Layva said Gavin's appeal should be made to Jefferson County Circuit Court rather than to the board.

Robert Trumble, an attorney representing U.S. Cellular, also said the zoning appeals board did not have jurisdiction because cellular towers are an essential utility and are exempt from the zoning ordinance.

As the attorneys wrangled, Harpers Ferry Mayor Kip Stowell approached the microphone and said he was "disgusted" by the process.

Scot Faulkner, president of the Friends of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, shouted that the board should have postponed the hearing.

"You're going to see the emotions now," he said, his face turning red. "You're going to see the mad citizens."

Board members decided to continue the hearing April 3 to give the attorneys a chance to review the papers filed in the case.

"I don't want anyone to feel they were ambushed on any issue," said board member Stephen Groh.

Attorneys cannot file any additional motions after March 26, the board ruled.

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