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More cell tower talk in Washington Township

September 16, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The Washington Township Supervisors on Monday hosted an hour and a half of testimony regarding a cell phone tower that proponents say could vastly improve wireless coverage in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., and surrounding communities.

Liberty Towers, of Rockville, Md., has proposed a 190-foot pole off left field of the ballfield owned by the Pen Mar Youth League. The tower developer says the structure could support up to six wireless carriers with signals stretching along Pa. 16 and reaching from Michaux State Forest to Cascade.

While the supervisors will not make a final decision until their next meeting, they have formed a list of requirements they plan to impose on the developer if the plan is approved. They want to prohibit the use of pesticides on the tower's base, get written verification the property isn't wetlands, and ensure the fenced area is shielded by vegetation.

"People are still telling me they want cell service in Blue Ridge. ... This tower is probably the best place you're going to get in that area," township resident Stanley Besecker said.

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Liberty Towers had submitted an alternate plan for a tower on Jacobs Church Road. That proposal generated negative feedback from some of the community for its proximity to heavily traveled Pa. 16 and historic structures.

The newer plan generally seems to be better liked by residents.

"We're far from residential uses and essentially back behind the ballfield," said Randall Holmes, who has worked with Liberty Towers on site acquisition.

Mike Hofe, president and chief executive officer of Liberty Towers, said the ballfield proposal better serves Rouzerville, Pa., although it lessens the potential coverage in nearby Adams County, Pa.

"There's pros and cons both ways," he said.

Liberty Towers recently floated a balloon at approximately 195 feet to demonstrate its visibility from various sites.

A few residents alleged that the balloon used in testing became entangled in a tree and said it might not have been properly photographed.

"The balloon test was not worthwhile in my book," said William Coleman Jr., of Blue Ridge Summit.

However, representatives of Liberty Towers testified that a state official participated in the testing and was satisfied with the methods.

Kathy Seiler, of Blue Ridge Summit, questioned how the cell tower would affect migrating birds.

"Bird kill incidents have occurred mostly on guiderail towers that are lighted. We don't have guidewires or lights," Holmes said.

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