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Commissioners wary of tower ordinance wording

June 18, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Commission has delayed making a decision on a provision to protect Blue Ridge Mountain from wireless communication towers.

The county commissioners said Thursday that they did not like the wording of the amendment to the proposed wireless communication ordinance and sent the issue back to the Jefferson County Planning Commission.

On June 11, the commissioners asked the staff to prepare an amendment to protect the mountain, limit wireless communication towers to 199 feet and lift a 30-foot height restriction on existing structures in rural and commercial zones.

The commissioners voted Thursday to approve the 199-foot height restriction because towers 200 feet and higher are required by the Federal Aviation Administration to have aircraft warning lights, said Jefferson County Commissioner James K. Ruland.

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"This protects the Jefferson County view shed," said Jefferson County Commission President R. Gregory Lance.

The commissioners also lifted the height restriction on existing structures because they want to encourage cellular phone companies to place their antennas on silos, water towers and other high buildings. Lance said cell towers on existing structures are less obtrusive than towers standing alone.

But the commissioners stumbled over the proposed wording of the ordinance to protect Blue Ridge Mountain. They said they do not want the ridge line cluttered with towers.

"The ridge line issue does not have the clarity I wish it would have," Ruland said.

County Commissioner Edgar Ridgeway said he believed the ordinance should specify that no towers could be built higher than the ridge line, which runs along the border between Jefferson County, W.Va., and Loudoun County, Va.

Other commissioners said that wording would allow cellular phone companies to build farther down the slope, but at a height that would make them highly visible to people in the valley.

"Even though my heart is right alongside of yours, I'm getting cold feet on this one," Ruland said.

The moratorium on wireless communication towers expires July 1 and the mountain will be left unprotected until the Planning Commission comes up with an amendment to protect them, officials said.

The other two amendments will be sent to the Planning Commission for review at Tuesday's meeting.

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