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Cell phone tower approved

July 18, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Members of the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals narrowly approved the construction of a 199-foot cell phone tower after a lengthy debate at Wednesday night's meeting.

Board members voted 3-2 to approve the tower, which will be built on John R. Martin's Ivy Hill Farm apple orchard at 13840 Smithsburg Pike (Md. 64).

Some Ringgold area residents testified that the proposed tower would destroy the area's pastoral view.

Others said they would welcome the obstruction if it will mean better cell phone service.

Shenandoah Mobile Co. asked for a special exception to build the tower.

Ralph Ward, who lives on nearby Windy Haven Road, collected signatures from 60 of his neighbors who oppose the tower's location. He took photos of the area and superimposed a tower to show what it might look like from different areas.

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"I feel that the given location on that ridge, which is certainly prominent, is going to make the tower a key feature of the skyline," Ward said. "Cell phone towers are part of our culture. They're here to stay. I feel we should make an attempt to properly locate them."

Not being an expert, Ward said he couldn't suggest a better location.

Professionals involved in building the tower testified they could not find a less obtrusive location that would allow them to fill the gap in coverage.

"You have a very beautiful county. I don't know if there is a place in the county that would not obstruct a viewshed," said Gregory S. Tully of Site Solutions Inc. of Roanoke, Va.

The tower is being built for Sprint, but at least two other cell phone carriers have expressed interest in using the tower, said Leonard L. Greisz of Shenandoah Mobile Co.

Martin said he was making cider one day when he was approached about selling land for a cell phone tower.

He turned them down, but later negotiated a long-term lease that would allow him to keep farming the land around the tower. The terms of the lease were not disclosed at the hearing, but Martin said it will help buffer his farm's financial problems.

"Anybody in the apple business has resigned themselves to a slow death, financially," Martin said.

Robert Graybill of Poplar Grove Road said he favors the tower because it will allow him to use his cell phone at his house.

But his neighbor, Frank Newcomer of Poplar Grove Road, said he built his retirement home so its windows would face the ridge.

"I did not expect to have this tower staring us in the face," he said.

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