200-foot tower cloaked with uncertainty

October 30, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

The legal status of a telecommunications tower set for construction near Sykesville is even more in doubt than it was a week ago.

While the Carroll County commissioners were deliberating Friday amendments to county tower regulations that would prevent tower construction in residential areas, the chairman of the county Planning and Zoning Commission signed a building permit to allow West Shore Communications to build a 200-foot tower on Hollenberry Road, within a mile of Sykesville and less than 1,000 feet from several homes.

"I signed against my better judgment and after much consideration," said Louis Pecoraro.

The commissioners, who did not announce until Friday that they were adding the ordinance to their agenda, delayed action on the proposed amendments until they visit Sykesville and two other tower sites tomorrow.

They said they plan to resume deliberations and hope to reach an agreement by late tomorrow. The ordinance would take effect immediately.

"I cannot vote for the ordinance without an amendment to stop construction of the present tower [in Sykesville]," said Commissioner Julia W. Gouge.

"It is not a safe venture. There are no guarantees and definitely none on a piece of equipment."

Commissioner Gouge questioned the Planning Commission's waiver of a fall zone -- the area in which a tower would land should it fall intact -- for the Sykesville tower.

The new ordinance requires a fall zone equal to the height of the tower plus a buffer zone of 200 feet. If enacted, Mrs. Gouge said, it would apply to the Sykesville tower.

"I feel strongly there has to be a fall zone that is not close to any houses," she said.

A building permit was issued to West Shore for the Sykesville tower at 4:05 p.m. Friday.

"Under the existing law, we had no choice but to grant the permit," said Beth Evans, county attorney.

Seven minutes after the permit was granted, attorneys for the town of Sykesville and Kathleen Blanco-Losada, a resident whose property adjoins the proposed tower site, filed appeals of the county Planning Commission's Oct. 18 site-plan approval for the tower.

"It is not clear whether the appeals stay the permit," said Isaac Menasche, the county attorney, who added that he would have to research several sources.

Clark Shaffer, attorney for West Shore, said he had serious concerns about the motives for the appeals. "They are done for the sole purpose of delay," said Mr. Shaffer. "These people knew this ordinance was coming along."

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy asked whether the builder would alter his plans for the site.

"I have tried to be accommodating," said Mark Sapperstein, vice president of West Shore.

"But everybody has to be accommodating to make this work."

If the ordinance passes as written, the Sykesville tower cannot be built with the required fall zone, said Michael Evans, county director of general services. There is at least one house in the larger fall zone.

Under the proposed amendments, if there is a structure within the fall-zone radius, the tower cannot be built.

"It is up to the commissioners to decide now who they really represent," said Ms. Blanco-Losada.

"If they feel the new regulations are in the best interest of the county, how can they in good conscience allow a tower which so clearly does not meet those regulations?"

Commissioner Donald I. Dell called the Sykesville tower "the toughest decision we have had to deal with."

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