Carroll County's approval of a 200-foot telecommunications tower came without site-plan acceptance from Sykesville and violates a town-county contract, town officials say.
"The contract is not a small thing, and we take it seriously," said Town Manager James L. Schumacher. "It is not a courtesy contract. It is absolute, signed by the mayor and the county."
The county has confirmed its oversight, said Mr. Schumacher, who is awaiting legal advice on filing an appeal. Chuck Thompson, county attorney, said he was not aware of the contract or its ramifications.
"I am sure we'll look into it," Mr. Thompson said yesterday. He said the town could have filed an appeal within 30 days of the Board of Zoning Appeals decision in February to allow the tower.
Cellular One expects its contractor to start building the tower in about three weeks and complete construction by the end of the year, said Jeff Owens, senior manager of real estate. Mr. Schumacher said he hoped the town's appeal would postpone the project.
"We are asking the county to reconsider and begin the approval procedure again," he said. "The town would be involved in all aspects, from the need, the appropriateness of site and the structure itself."
The tower, on Hollenberry Road, is within a mile of municipal boundaries. So the town, under the contract, is to be consulted on any county decision involving the area.
"The town has no jurisdiction, but it has the right to recommend or make comments, which we assume have merit," Mr. Schumacher said. "The town extends the same courtesy to the county."
Councilman Jonathan Herman recommended at the town Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Monday that Sykesville "take as harsh an action as we can on behalf
of our citizens and those in the surrounding environs."
"We should do whatever is in our legal powers to have the ruling appealed," he said. "The site plans should have been transferred to the local [Sykesville] Planning Commission. They [the county] took action without the proper information."
The town joins a long line of protesters that began forming last fall, when Cellular One proposed building the tower on land leased from William J. and Phyliss Shand. Neighbors collected nearly 700 signatures in opposition and hired an attorney to fight the tower.
Despite the protests, the Board of Zoning Appeals approved a variance for the tower seven months ago.
"I am delighted that Sykesville is going to reopen this issue," said Kathy Blanco-Losada, whose property adjoins the Shands'.
"We don't want it here, no matter what. I recognize and understand the benefits to the community, particularly emergency operations, but this isn't the only suitable site in the county."
Ms. Blanco-Losada had refused to sign easements agreeing to the 200-foot fall zone -- the area where a tower might land if it fell. That zone would have gone onto her property.
The Carroll County commissioners are considering regulations, written by the county Planning and Zoning Commission, that would require
a 1,000-foot fall radius for towers built in residential areas. Last month, the same commission took an unprecedented move and reduced the fall zone for the Sykesville tower by 90 feet.
"It is ludicrous that a group proposes amendments to increase a fall zone and then approves a site that doesn't meet any of its requirements," Ms. Blanco-Losada said. "Cellular One is ramrodding this thing through to the possible detriment of residents."
It never contacted residents about the easements, she said.
"They owed me that courtesy, although they knew I wouldn't sign," she said. Reduction of the fall zone was the last hurdle before construction could begin.