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Tower site looks good, citizens group says

November 20, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

SANDY HOOK -- Members of a Pleasant Valley citizens group said they were pleased with the results of a balloon test conducted Friday to gauge the visual impact of a possible emergency communications tower site near Maryland Heights at the southern tip of Washington County.

"It looks like that's probably a good site," Citizens for the Preservation of Pleasant Valley member Hank Livelsberger said after driving around to view the balloons from various places. "I'm sure that the people whose backyard these things are in are going to be not as happy as they possibly could be, but it's a pretty good spot."

A team from Kimball Engineering raised three balloons Friday to the height of the proposed 190-foot tower the county hopes to build as part of a new emergency communications system.

The county has a verbal agreement to acquire private property off of Miller Avenue for the tower. Tests have shown the site has the microwave connectivity needed for a tower there to link to other towers, Washington County Communications Maintenance Manager Pete Loewenheim said. Officials are not certain yet what kind of propagation the site would provide for portable radios, but computer modeling suggests the site will serve the purpose, Loewenheim said.

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Yellow, orange and red balloons flown Friday showed three spots on the property where the county could build the tower, Loewenheim said.

The orange balloon was attached to a crane to give viewers a better sense of what a structure would look like, said Joseph W. D'Andrea, senior project manager for Kimball.

The National Park Service had staff photographing the balloons from various sites in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and along the C&O Canal and Appalachian Trail, while CPPV members said they focused on the view from streets and nearby residential areas.

The balloons could be seen bobbing against the wooded backdrop of Maryland Heights from Keep Tryst Road, Weverton Road, and the U.S. 340 bridges over the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, Livelsberger said.

CPPV President Eric Whitenton said the site was much better than a spot proposed last year near the intersection of Keep Tryst and Sandy Hook roads.

"Before, it was right in the middle of the valley, sticking up," he said. "At least now, it's kind of off to the side somewhat."

John Robert Delauder, whose home on Miller Avenue faces the hillside where the balloons flew, said he didn't love the idea of a tower so close by, but didn't think it was a big deal, either.

"It wouldn't be too bad to me if it doesn't have flashing lights and all that," he said.

Officials said the tower would not be lit.

Whitenton said CPPV members plan to ask the county to paint the tower brown to further disguise it against the landscape. Where a balloon might not seem intrusive, a big tress tower with microwave dishes is harder to ignore, he said.

"This balloon test kind of tells you the height, but you have to kind of mentally plunk in there three or four 9-foot dishes," Whitenton said.

The group appreciated the amount of advance notice they were given about the balloon test and the fact that it was conducted after most of the leaves were off the trees, Whitenton said.

A public hearing on the proposed site for the tower will be scheduled for January or February, Washington County Director of Public Works Joseph Kroboth III has said.

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