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Tower plan faces opposition

May 14, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

A proposal by American Tower Corp. of Millersville, Md., to put a 190-foot telephone communications tower in Rohrersville is encountering regional opposition, including from the Harpers Ferry Conservancy.

cont. from front page

The Appalachian Trail Conference is also studying the request to put a tower at 4614 Locust Grove Road, since it is within a mile of the Appalachian Trail, but the organization has not taken a position on the proposal, said David Reus, conference telecommunications coordinator.

Patrick Welsh, a lawyer for American Tower, said the tower would not be visible from the trail.

Welsh said the company did two "balloon tests," where workers raised balloons to 190 feet, to see if the tower would be seen from the trail, and "because of the tree canopy you can't see it."

The request by property owner Michelle Reilly was scheduled for discussion at the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeal's meeting last Wednesday. She is requesting a special exception so the company can put the tower on her property, which is near the South Mountain Natural Environment Area.

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However, at the request of several parties, including the Harpers Ferry Conservancy and the Appalachian Trail Conference, the decision was postponed until its June 7 meeting.

Edgar F. Czarra, Jr., of 4310 Locust Grove Road, said he and about 40 local property owners who oppose the proposal attended the meeting.

He said opponents are "quite" upset. However, he did not want to state his specifics objections until next month's meeting, he said.

Paul Rosa, executive director of the Harpers Ferry Conservancy, said his group believes American Tower hasn't fully investigated alternative sites for this tower.

But Welsh said the company reviewed at least six sites in that area.

Also, Rosa is urging American Tower, and the cell phone companies which lease space on the towers, to take the regional history and landscape into consideration when deciding where to put towers.

"The regional landscape is under full frontal assault," he said Thursday.

Rosa said the conservancy doesn't oppose all towers, instead saying they should be smaller - less than 100 feet high - and less obtrusive, he said.

"I am an advocate of more sites, lower heights. We just want it to blend into the scenery," he said.

The group also thinks existing towers, as well as other structures, should be used whenever possible, he said.

Welsh said a 100-foot tower would have "almost a negligible effect on service."

He added that the company selected the potential site, which he said is surrounded by trees and on the slope of a hill, so a tower would have a minimal impact on the scenery.

"You're always going to see a 190-foot tower. This is a line of site technology and if you can't see it, it doesn't work. But we're doing as much as we can," Welsh said.

Last fall American Tower received permission to build two 195-foot telephone towers in the Cedar Ridge and Beaver Creek areas. Only one person spoke against those towers.

Until recently, free-standing towers were handled with permits rather than requiring approval from the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals, County Attorney Richard Douglas said.

But after hearing complaints from residents about cell phone towers being built around the county without advance warning, the board changed the rules to require board approval and notification of neighbors, he said.

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