Find Another Tower Site

January 09, 1995

A court may have to decide whether the building permit for West Shore Communications' cellular telephone tower in Sykesville was properly issued, but it should be very clear to the company that it is fighting a losing political battle. Rather than continue the increasingly expensive effort to construct this 200-foot tower, West Shore would be better off looking for an alternative site.

Construction of the tower began on the afternoon of Friday, Oct. 28, almost before the ink was dry on the building permit. Work continued that weekend. On Monday, Oct. 31, after traveling to the tower site and reviewing the construction, the Carroll County commissioners enacted on the site a zoning ordinance -- which had been pending for months -- placing new restrictions on towers. Under the provisions of the new ordinance, West Shore's tower was too close to neighboring houses. The county then issued an immediate stop-work order.

While the company was receiving its building permit, opponents, who believe the tower presents aesthetic and safety problems, filed an appeal contesting an earlier Board of Zoning Appeals decision. Until the appeal process is exhausted, they contend, tower construction should be halted.

If West Shore persists in building the tower on this site and eventually prevails, it will have alienated everyone from the commissioners to the residents of Sykesville. Former Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy had reservations about constructing a 200-foot tower on conservation-zoned land, particularly when other appropriately zoned land is nearby. He said it set a troubling precedent. It is likely that the county's two new commissioners Richard T. Yates and W. Benjamin Brown agree.

The transparent attempt to get construction started and a foundation poured by working on a weekend also leaves the terrible impression that West Shore is not a good neighbor and is playing all angles to get what it wants. Such a show of bad faith alienates potential customers and may explain why Bell Atlantic's cellular arm backed out of its commitment to lease antennas on the tower.

At this juncture, the wisest move for West Shore and the cellular companies interested in using the tower would be to give up on this site. The companies would be better off in the long run to find another more appropriately zoned parcel.

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