County failure to notify town delays telecommunications tower

September 21, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

A broken agreement between the county and eight towns will delay construction of a 200-foot telecommunications tower near Sykesville.

The county violated the 15-year-old agreement by failing to give Sykesville information on the site plan for the project, which is within one mile of the town's borders.

"We have an agreement that wasn't used and needs to be," said Planning and Zoning Commission member David Duree.

The town has until the Oct. 18 meeting of the commission to present its concerns. The commission deferred rescinding county approval of the site plan.

"The central issue is that we haven't heard from Sykesville, and they must be given an opportunity to respond," commission chairman Louis Pecoraro said yesterday.

Cellular One plans to build the tower on land zoned for conservation uses and leased from William and Phyliss Shand on Hollenberry Road.

In February, over residents' protests, the county Board of Zoning Appeals approved a variance to allow construction. Last month, the Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed the site plan and reduced the fall zone, the area where a tower might land if it fell.

When Mr. Pecoraro acknowledged the county's error in failing to consult the town, he asked members of the commission yesterday to rescind the Aug. 16 action.

"We were remiss in not sending information to Sykesville," he said. "If we had had their information, perhaps things would have been different. It was an error not to involve Sykesville in the action."

Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown, who has worked with tower opponents, said the commission was "in the embarrassing position" of making a procedural error.

"The only remedy is to rescind the action and follow the agreement," he said.

Commission member Robert Lennon said he saw no basis for rescinding the action and that he feared such a move would open the board to lawsuits from the applicant.

"If the planning commission acted in error, the route for those who oppose the action is to go to the Circuit Court and get an injunction," Mr. Lennon said.

After hearing arguments from Sykesville officials, Mr. Lennon moved to allow them to make a presentation next month.

The board may consider changing the fall zone after it hears the town's appeal, he said.

Sykesville Town Manager James L. Schumacher called the county's failure to consult with town officials "regrettable."

"The town has been involved in the [tower] process and had public hearings on the project," he said.

On the most recent site plan and fall zone, the town "was bypassed," Mr. Schumacher said. "Our Planning Commission would like to make its official recommendation."

After filing its appeal, the town received the site plans Sept. 8. Its Planning and Zoning Commission will review them Oct. 3.

"The commission voted unanimously to file an appeal," said Mr. Schumacher. "That should be an indication of how they feel."

Solveig Smith, county zoning administrator, said the town appeal and that of a resident whose property adjoins the Shands' "stay any furtherance. The site-plan approval can't be finalized."

Clark Shaffer, attorney for West Shore Communications, which will build the tower for Cellular One, called the complaint "ludicrous" and the argument a "delaying tactic."

The town has had "full opportunity to participate in the process since the application was filed in 1993," he said. "It received a written copy of the approval and didn't appeal within 30 days. If Sykesville wants to be heard, let's hear them today."

Cynthia Hitt, town attorney, said the agreement allows 45 days from submission of site plans for review and comment.

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