Tower opposed near Antietam

April 09, 2001

Tower opposed near Antietam


Two state lawmakers, the Washington County Historic District Commission and the Antietam National Battlefield superintendent oppose a new proposal to erect a 195-foot cell-phone tower on Lappans Road by Sharpsburg Pike.

Del. Chris Shank, R-Washington, and Sen. Don Munson, R-Washington, are against a Strategic Communications Service of Enola, Pa., proposal to put a tower at 18126 Lappans Road, near its crossroad with Sharpsburg Pike.

In June 2000, about 75 people, including Shank and Munson, spoke against a proposal to erect a 190-foot telephone communications tower in Rohrersville. Opponents said the site was too close to both the Appalachian Trail and South Mountain Battlefield Park.


The Board of Zoning Appeals rejected that proposal. Board approval for new cell towers is required under a 1999 change in county rules.

Shank will speak against the new proposal at the Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing Wednesday. Munson said he does not know yet if he will attend and speak.

Somerville Nicholson of Fairplay, who lives across the road from the property site, is also against the proposal.

"Who wouldn't be opposed to it?" he said. He did not want to elaborate on the reasons for his opposition.

The tower would be built at 18126 Lappans Road, owned by David and Marcie Risser. They would lease the property to Strategic, according to documents submitted to the county.

The Rissers and Strategic officials did not return phone calls.

The tower would be about five miles from the battlefield.

And that is way too close, some say.

"We are a little concerned about the size of the tower and it's not that we are against cellular phones but the placement of these towers need to take into consideration the historical significance - the fact that it's on the 65 corridor, which is the main entry route to the battlefield," Antietam Superintendent John Howard said. He noted there was movement along that corridor during the war.

The Historic District Commission decided Wednesday to recommend the Board of Zoning Appeals deny the tower's variance request, said Stephen T. Goodrich, Washington County Planning Department senior planner. It also suggested the board wait until the state has completed its review of the request, he said.

The commission took the action because the Risser's property is on the county's list of historic places. It contains log and stone houses, he said. The homes would not be damaged under the proposal, he said.

There are also 15 historical properties within one mile of the site, he said.

Shank said the state and federal government have spent about $11.7 million on the protection of more than 4,000 acres of private land near the battlefield.

The state and federal goal of preserving approaches to the battlefield, as well as views from the historical site, would be damaged by the placement of a tower along the 65 corridor, Shank said.

As a representative of taxpayers, he feels obligated to protest the idea of building a tower so near that historical institution, Shank said.

Shank and Munson said the proximity to historical sites is a problem with both sites.

"I am generally opposed to cell towers," Munson said. "I am very opposed to this cell tower because it has the same characteristic the last one had, which is that it is too near a historic battlefield," he said.

"To the extent of my job-related responsibilities, and my participation as a board member of Scenic Maryland, I will do what I can to fight this tower."

Scenic Maryland is a private organization established earlier this year, he said, to "take a lead role in Maryland in reducing visual blight from inappropriately sited communications towers, preserving scenic countryside, promoting better urban design and working to improve road design and placement," Munson said.

Munson has asked the group to take a position on this issue, he said.

It would be inconsistent of him to be there unless Scenic Maryland wants him to be there, he said. At an executive meeting before Wednesday, the organization will tell him whether or not it wants him to go speak representing the group, he said.

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