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Petition against tower withdrawn

December 09, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Harpers Ferry Conservancy has withdrawn its petition to the Federal Communications Commission against the construction of a 330-foot communications tower at the State Highway Administration along Interstate 70 near Sharpsburg Pike.

Paul Rosa, the group's executive director, said the group withdrew the petition so it can focus on opposing a 180-foot communications tower proposed for the Lamb's Knoll section of South Mountain.

"We are not doing so because we believe our petition lacks merit, but in order to focus our attention on the companion tower at Lamb's Knoll," Rosa wrote in a Dec. 1 letter to FCC Chief Counsel Dan Abeyta.

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The conservancy's petition caused the FCC to issue a stop-work order on the I-70 tower. The state agency that had sought to build the tower was directed to prove it would comply with FCC environmental rules that include requiring documentation of any environmental impact the tower might have.

Abeyta could not be reached for comment Friday on whether the conservancy's action would prompt the FCC to suspend the stop-work order.

Rosa's group also petitioned against the Lamb's Knoll tower, which led to the FCC issuing a stop-work order there as well.

The conservancy has said the public was not aware the towers were proposed, that there are alternatives to constructing tall towers and that the towers would disrupt the landscape of the county.

The Maryland Department of Budget and Management has proposed both towers be built in an effort to improve public safety communications in Western Maryland and throughout the state.

State officials have said the towers would be part of a chain of more than 200 proposed throughout Maryland. They said the towers would allow state and local agencies to upgrade to higher frequencies.

State and emergency officials have said all of Western Maryland would go without upgrades to public safety communications if the two towers in Washington County are not erected. They said the towers in Washington County are necessary to link towers in Allegany and Garrett counties with the rest of the state.

The conservancy and other preservationists have said the Lamb's Knoll tower would be inappropriate for such an historic area. Lamb's Knoll is along the Appalachian Trail between the Fox's Gap and Crampton's Gap battlefields in the South Mountain Recreation Area, which is owned and run by the state Department of Natural Resources.

They also said it would mar the landscapes of Antietam National Battlefield and skylines in other parts of Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia.

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