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Commission limits cell tower height

June 11, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Commission took action Thursday to protect Blue Ridge Mountain from wireless communication towers.

The commissioners voted 4-1 to bar the towers from sticking up above the tree canopy on the top of the mountain. The towers cannot be higher than the ridge line, although the less-intrusive antennas could go higher, said County Commissioner Dean Hockensmith.

The commissioners voted to have staff work on three issues to amend the long-debated proposed ordinance to regulate the towers. They are expected to hold a final vote June 18 on the proposed ordinance, including amendments.

County Commissioner James G. Knode voted against the amendment.

"I look at the ridge line every day and I don't want that view destroyed, but I don't see how we can really do that with the language proposed for this ordinance," Knode said.

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Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mike Cassell said he will work on the language of the restriction to make the ordinance work.

A request to amend the proposed ordinance to limit the height of all towers to 199 feet passed on a 3-2 vote.

Rita Hennessy of Charles Town, and Pam Underhill of Shannondale, W.Va., asked the commissioners to include height restrictions so the towers would not need to be equipped with blinking red and white lights. The Federal Aviation Administration requires towers above 199 feet to have such lights to warn aircraft.

Hockensmith said the cellular phone companies should not be limited in how high their towers go.

"If they need the height, let them have the height," Hockensmith said.

Hennessy said she did not believe Jefferson County residents want to look at the night sky and see flashing strobe lights.

"Ninety percent of the people in this county don't care about flashing lights on the towers - just you noisemakers," Hockensmith replied.

Commissioners R. Gregory Lance, James K. Ruland and Edgar Ridgeway voted in favor of adding the height restriction. Knode and Hockensmith voted against it.

The commissioners voted unanimously to have staff write an amendment to lift the 30-foot height restriction of towers put on existing structures in rural and commercial zones.

The commissioners said they want to encourage companies to put the antennas on existing structures, where they will be less obtrusive.

If the commissioners approve the proposed ordinance with the three amendments next week, it will go back to the Jefferson County Planning Commission for review.

They said they believe regulations will be in place before the moratorium on wireless towers is lifted on July 1.

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