Tower foes seeking second red light

November 23, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

Although Carroll's commissioners stopped construction of a telecommunications tower near Sykesville nearly three weeks ago, the town and an adjacent landowner this week appealed the county Board of Zoning Appeals decision that had given the green light to the controversial 200-foot tower.

The town of Sykesville and property owner Kathy Blanco-Losada filed their appeal Monday afternoon in Carroll Circuit Court. On Oct. 26, the zoning appeals board, without deliberation, discussion or review, unanimously rejected all appeals against the tower.

With that decision and a building permit, West Shore Communications began construction on the structural steel tower at a site on Hollenberry Road, about a mile outside of Sykesville.

Two days after construction had begun -- a hole had been dug and concrete was about to be poured for the tower's foundation -- the county commissioners issued a stop-work order and passed a new ordinance that effectively makes construction of the tower impossible.

Under that ordinance, passed as the commissioners visited the construction site Oct. 31, towers in residential areas would be severely curtailed.

The law will apply to the Sykesville tower and others that are planned.

The new ordinance requires a fall zone -- the area in which the tower would land if it fell intact, an area equal to the height of the tower plus a 200-foot buffer zone.

The requirement makes it impossible to build the tower on conservation-zoned land on Hollenberry Road.

The fall zone requirement in the new ordinance addressed the year of concerns voiced by Sykesville officials and Ms. Blanco-Losada, whose land was vulnerable if the tower should ever have fallen intact.

The Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals previously had both upheld a fall-zone waiver to West Shore.

It was unclear yesterday what practical effect the court appeal of the zoning appeals board decision would have.

West Shore has appealed the stop-work order to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Should company officials convince the board that they had a vested right in the construction of the tower before the commissioners passed the new ordinance, it would mean that the ordinance could not apply to them, legal sources said.

If Sykesville and Ms. Blanco-Losada are successful in their appeal, it would be impossible for West Shore to claim that it had a vested interest in the tower's construction before the ordinance, the sources say.

No formal challenges have been lodged to the ordinance itself, county officials said.

Attorneys for Sykesville and Ms. Blanco-Losada did not return telephone calls yesterday.

Clark Shaffer, an attorney for West Shore, could not be reached for comment.

County Attorney Charles W. Thompson Jr. declined to comment.

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