Bell Mobile cancels tower lease offer

February 10, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Bell Atlantic Mobile has withdrawn its offer to lease space on a proposed telecommunications tower outside Sykesville.

A company official said the move was in response to neighborhood opposition.

"We have terminated the lease agreement," said Robert L. Johnson, Baltimore and Washington regional vice president for the cellular phone company.

News articles detailing the Carroll County residents' opposition led to the decision in mid-January, Mr. Johnson said yesterday.

"We are sensitive to what goes on in the community. Our customers live there, and we have heard from them directly that they oppose the tower," he said. "Neighbors have clearly indicated they are not pleased with the site."

Cathleen Heisch, organizer of the Piney Run Neighborhood Action Committee, which formed three months ago to oppose the tower, called the Hollenberry Road site inappropriate. The site is on conservation-zoned land adjoining the Piney Run watershed.

Ms. Heisch said she was glad that Bell Atlantic listened to the opposition.

"I am happy to see this happening," she said. "People appreciate this gesture. It shows they are listening to the concerns of their customers."

Bell Atlantic and Cellular One were searching for sites in Carroll County in response to federal guidelines for improved mobile telephone coverage. Cellular One announced plans to lease a half-acre from William J. and Phyllis Shand to build a 200-foot tower on Hollenberry Road last fall.

"As frequently happens, our competitor found a site and asked us to co-locate," Mr. Johnson said.

Before Cellular One can proceed, the county must approve a zoning variance for the tower.

The Carroll County Board of Zoning Appeals is scheduled to deliberate in open session at 1:30 p.m. today in Room 7 of the County Office Building and may render a decision. The board heard two days of testimony on the tower proposal in late January and early this week.

Mark Sapperstein, the owner of West Shore Communications, which would build the tower, said he plans to bring several companies to the site.

"Competitors with the same needs can use the same sites," said Mr. Sapperstein at the Jan. 27 hearing.

He named both cellular phone companies as interested parties.

In addition to those companies, he said, several paging businesses want to lease space for antennas.

He also has offered the county emergency services agency free use of the tower.

Mr. Sapperstein was not available for comment yesterday.

While Bell Atlantic wants to improve the quality of its service in South Carroll, it "much prefers [using] existing structures" to building more towers, Mr. Johnson said.

Bell Atlantic Mobile engineers "never determined" that the Hollenberry Road site was ideal, Mr. Johnson said.

"We want to impact the community as little as possible with the minimum number of towers," he said. "The site was not the No. 1 location for us. But if a tower was going to be there, we wanted to take advantage."

Julie Rosenthal, director of public relations for Cellular One, said, "Our understanding is that Bell Atlantic is not part of the formal application process. But if the tower is approved, they intend to install their equipment."

Bell Atlantic may rethink its decision "if the zoning board approves and the community accepts," Mr. Johnson said.

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