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Township opens door for future cell towers

November 21, 2006|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The Washington Township Board of Supervisors ended months of debate Monday when it voted to allow communication towers on township land.

In a 3-2 decision, supervisors voted to approve an ordinance that provides for conditional use of communication towers on land zoned forest conservation.

The decision followed a narrow defeat of a motion by supervisor Christopher Firme to table the ordinance until the board could do further research into similar ordinances from local municipalities.

During the meeting, Firme suggested studies be conducted by both the township and by Cingular Wireless to assess visual impact and alternative sites. He also suggested the township raise the rates it quoted initially for rental of the property.

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Solicitor John Lisko said the township proposed, in a nonbinding letter, a rate of $1,000 per month to rent the land with an additional rate of $200 per month for each carrier added to the tower.

Since the ordinance was proposed in September, residents have been split on the issue.

Speaking against the ordinance, Terry Sebold of Pennersville Road said while she understood why people want more cell phone service, she was opposed to using land atop Mt. Dunlop that was forest conservation.

"There are other options and they (Cingular Wireless) are not pursuing them," she said of the tower's proposed site.

Robert Sherald of Delaware Circle spoke in favor of the ordinance, telling supervisors of his experience with no cell phone service after wrecking his vehicle along Pa. 16 between Rouzerville, Pa., and Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

"What is more important, an eyesore in the mountains or the risk of potential death?" he asked.

Supervisor John Gorman suggested supervisors look into making the ordinance more stringent in areas not covered under conditional use.

"Very few of the things I would like to see are covered under conditional use," he said.

Lisko said conditional use allows the board to place conditions on the use of the property that relate to the health, safety or welfare of the people.

Gorman and Firme, who voted against the ordinance, said they will continue to pursue changes to the benefit of the community. Firme said if the board allows a tower on the property, he will definitely pursue a more favorable rent. "If something is going to block a view, it jolly well will be paid for," he said.

Gorman said he is considering the option of amending the ordinance in the future to include a measure that would require the company to exhaustively pursue all other possible sites before seeking to place a tower on township land.

Supervisors Paul Benchoff, Carroll Sturm and Stewart McCleaf voted for the ordinance.

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