Cellular One to fight for tower location on Hollenberry Road

January 04, 1995|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Despite a year of legal haggling and new legislation that prevents construction at its tower site near Sykesville, Cellular One is determined to fight for the proposed location on Hollenberry Road.

"We plan to see it to the end, until the final decision," said Jeff Owens, senior manager for real estate for the subsidiary of Southwestern Bell. "We still think this is a good site.

"The whole issue has become convoluted with the new regulations but eventually there is going to be a tower in Sykesville. Communications can't be covered any other way."

The Greenbelt company has invested both time and money in the project, he said, and "owes it to everybody to see it through."

West Shore Communications, contract builder for the Sykesville tower, began construction Oct. 29, one day after receiving a building permit for the 200-foot freestanding structure.

Attorneys for Sykesville have argued that the permit is invalid because it was obtained before the Board of Zoning Appeals issued its written opinion of an appeal by the town and residents whose properties adjoin the tower site.

Mark Sapperstein, vice president of West Shore, said all county agencies had signed off on the project, before he started to build.

Crews worked through the weekend on the tower foundation. When the county commissioners met at the site Monday, Oct. 31, they cited unsafe conditions and called for an immediate work stoppage. At the same time, they enacted new legislation that prohibited towers with inadequate fall zones and buffers.

The ordinance says towers must have a fall zone equal to their height and a 50-foot buffer zone as well. Homes are within 250 feet of the Sykesville tower site.

West Shore has appealed the work stop order and is awaiting a decision from the Board of Zoning Appeals, which heard the case Thursday. After six hours of testimony, the board delayed its decision until members confer with the county attorney and review several documents.

West Shore is leasing a 50-by-50-foot section of land from William Shand for $550 a month to build the tower and a small maintenance shed. The foundation is now surrounded by

security fencing. Mr. Shand has built a new two-story home next to the tower site.

"My insurance carrier has no problem with the tower being there," Mr. Shand said.

Mr. Owens said insurers usually have no problems with tower sites.

"The structures are designed to withstand violent forces," he said. "If a wind were that powerful, a home would be devastated long before a tower would fall."

Mr. Shand questioned the motives of his neighbors, who formed a coalition to fight the tower and collected about 700 signatures on a petition against the project.

"People . . . object for reasons which are unclear to me," said Mr. Shand. "Most can't see the tower and it is environmentally safe. You have to have telecommunications where people live.

"You can't put towers in the middle of nowhere."

Mr. Owens said Cellular One spent about six months to locate the Hollenberry Road site, one of the highest elevations in the South Carroll area. Without a tower, the hilly terrain in the area often disrupts wireless communications, including messages among police, fire and emergency services agencies.

Several other users would lease space on the proposed tower. Cellular One has offered the county emergency services free space.

"The benefits of this tower at this location far, far outweigh any negatives," Mr. Owens said.

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