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Plan undecided for U.S. Cellular's acre

April 12, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - U.S. Cellular is no longer planning to build a tower on the middle of a Civil War battlefield next to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, but the future of the acre lot remains unknown.

U.S. Cellular project manager Markham Gartley said the company is exploring several options for the property off U.S. 340, including donating it to a conservation group to preserve it.

Gartley said the company remains committed to not developing the property and will do what it can to make sure that another cellular phone company does not buy it to place a tower there.

Paul Rosa, an opponent of U.S. Cellular's plans to build a cellular phone tower on the site, said he has formed the Harpers Ferry Conservancy in an effort to get U.S. Cellular to donate the land.

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Dennis Frye, president of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, said his group is supporting the Harpers Ferry Conservancy in Rosa's drive to obtain the property.

Frye said that he has been pleased with U.S. Cellular's decision to locate the tower on a compromise site.

"This is an excellent example of government, business and private interests working closely to diffuse a bomb. This bomb did not explode, but instead turned into a rose garden in which all sides win," Frye said.

APCWS had initially sought the property, but that it would be better if it was donated to the locally formed group, Frye said.

The donation to the newly formed Harpers Ferry Conservancy would jump start the organization and could lead to funds from the state and federal government and private foundations, Frye and Rosa said.

"It would show extreme good will on the part of U.S. Cellular," Frye said.

U.S. Cellular would benefit by getting good publicity for the donation and receive a tax write off for donating the property which was bought for $80,000, Rosa said.

Gartley said the company is listening to different suggestions for the property's future, but does not feel undue pressure to donate it.

Rosa said he would eventually like to see the Harpers Ferry Conservancy obtain other property to preserve around a 25-mile radius around Harpers Ferry.

Rosa was executive director of the Potomac Conservancy, which worked to preserve land around the Potomac River.

Rosa said he currently is working as a volunteer for the Harpers Ferry Conservancy, but would like for the position to eventually become a paid position like he held with the Potomac Conservancy.

On Dec. 9, U.S. Cellular obtained approval from the Jefferson County Planning Commission to build a 260-foot high cellular phone tower off U.S. 340 next to the Cliffside Inn and near Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

After the community rallied to oppose the plans, U.S. Cellular backed off the initial site and is currently working with Harpers Ferry officials to place a tower on a compromise site next to the town's water tanks on Bolivar Heights.

"It proves the benefits of mature discussion in an environment of faith and trust. In this case, all sides agreed to agree that the best solution was a good compromise," Frye said.

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