Associations won't fight communications tower

March 14, 1994|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

Two neighborhood associations in the Linthicum-Shipley area won't fight a Columbia company's request to build a cellular communications tower, if the company agrees to a covenant that will be drawn up tomorrow .

Last week, the Linthicum-Shipley Improvement Association voted to support Nextel Communications' request for a special exception to build a 102.5-foot-tall communications tower off Camp Meade Road, south of Andover Road. Nextel will lease 1.33 acres of the Camp Meade Road property for at least five years from BWI Limited Partnership.

"I feel encouraged [by the vote]," said Joseph Joyce, project director for Nextel. "We're open to their suggestions."

About 40 residents filled the band room at Linthicum Elementary School last week when Mr. Joyce outlined Nextel's plan.

Nextel also wants a variance for the Camp Meade Road property. The land's current zoning limits principle structures to a maximum height of 35 feet.

The communications tower also will have a small, unmanned equipment building.

"This site was chosen because of its position in the network," Mr. Joyce told residents Wednesday. The company's other local sites are in Baltimore, Halethorpe, Jessup and Catonsville.

A Feb. 24 public hearing on the company's plans was postponed to March 31 after a request by the improvement association and the Shipley Fairmont Homeowners Association.

The associations asked for the delay to give residents a chance to express concerns about the safety of electromagnetic and microwave transmissions; the tower's proximity to a future middle school; removal of woodlands; the Federal Aviation Administration's ruling that the tower does not have to be marked with lights; and the structure's aesthetics.

Mr. Joyce told residents the tower's electromagnetic and microwave transmissions would be well below acceptable levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Runoff from rain and the facility's proximity to the hiker-biker trail would not cause problems because the tower would be located about 120 feet from the trail, he said.

Mr. Joyce responded to residents' concerns about low-flying airplanes by saying Nextel would put lights on the tower, if that's what residents want.

Only about 6 percent of the woodlands, a buffer from automotive and aviation noise, would be disturbed. Nextel will replant the area as part of its project.

The tower will occupy 3,700 square feet of 58,152 square feet of land, Mr. Joyce said.

Gerald Starr, president of the improvement association, said he "was pleased that the community didn't totally reject" Nextel's plan.

Nextel, based in Rutherford, N.J., was founded in 1987 and recently brought together many small mobile-radio companies.

A 1991 decision by the Federal Communications Commission allowed companies such as Nextel to replace high-powered sites with multiple low-powered base stations.

The move allowed the creation of a third cellular-like carrier in the markets served by the two FCC licensed wireless providers.

Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems and Cellular One are the two providers in the mid-Atlantic region.

Mr. Joyce said Nextel is trying to establish itself in the cellular industry as a competitive provider.

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