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Cellular equipment eyed for top of Ambrose Towers

January 03, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A wireless communications company has asked the Martinsburg Planning Commission to approve a site plan for locating cellular equipment on top of a six-story residential complex owned by the city's public housing authority.

U.S. Cellular Corp.'s proposed installation on top of Ambrose Towers at 703 Porter Ave., along with a developer's proposal to build an 11-building, 156-apartment complex west of Interstate 81, are expected to be reviewed tonight at the commission's monthly meeting. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in City Hall's council chambers at 232 N. Queen St.

Cathy Dodson, executive director of the City of Martinsburg Housing Authority, said the agency tentatively agreed to lease space on the building's "elevator penthouse" for 20 years at a rate of $1,200 per month, which would amount to $288,000.

"It's money that we can use to make improvements to the building," Dodson said of the complex built in 1974.

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Mike Pacyna, project manager for U.S. Cellular in West Virginia, said the Chicago-based company took steps to camouflage the equipment shelter and associated antennae, and provide a needed "capacity site" for Martinsburg.

"We want everything to blend in," said Pacyna, noting the company is attempting to avoid constructing new towers, which have been criticized as unsightly.

Ambrose Towers is situated between Martinsburg Mall and downtown Martinsburg at the intersection of Mall Drive and Porter Avenue. Pacyna estimated the building is about 80 feet tall and noted it was one of the company's only options to "co-locate" the equipment and add to the amount of minutes available for cell-phone use in the area.

"There's a lot of growth in the Eastern Panhandle," Pacyna said. "We're trying to get out in front of that as much as we can."

In addition to the cell tower request, commissioners also are expected to review a site-plan application requesting approval for a 156-unit apartment complex that is planned to include a community center and a swimming pool on about 10.8 acres off Delmar Orchard Road.

Proposed by developer J.A. Loveless Companies and property owner Lee Trace, both of Vienna, Va., the Lee Trace Apartment Complex development would be at 2407 Delmar Orchard Road, across from the Martinsburg Seventh-day Adventist Church, according to the application submitted for approval.

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