Put Sykesville tower on hold

July 31, 1995

Even though the cellular phone company that seeks to build a 200-foot communications tower in Sykesville has a valid building permit, construction of the tower should not proceed until all judicial appeals are exhausted. Maryland's higher courts regularly overturn decisions of Carroll's Circuit Court, which recently ruled in favor of West Shore Communications' controversial bid to build its tower. Given that history, we might witness the spectacle ofhaving the tower torn down after being built. Should the approvals for this tower survive judicial review by the state's appellate courts, then -- and only then -- should construction begin.

While the legal question of whether the tower can be built deals with the permits and approvals, the question about stopping construction until the judicial process is completed deals with the notion of damages. Opponents of the tower maintain that they will be hurt if the tower is constructed because it will reduce the value of their property. West Shore Communications claims that it will sustain an economic loss because it won't be able to obtain revenue until the tower is completed and leased to cellular phone companies.

In order to minimize the real damages to each side, the tower's opponents should be prepared to post a bond, as called for by law when litigants ask courts for injunctions. For this reason, it is imperative that Carroll County and the town of Sykesville become parties to the appeal. Kathy Blanco-Losada, an adjacent property owner who has spent about $10,000 financing the legal battle, does not have the resources to continue. Neither do her neighbors who formed the Piney Run Action Committee to oppose construction of the tower in a residential area.

Aside from the reality that the county and town have deeper FTC pockets to finance a protracted legal battle, it is in the governments' interest to obtain judicial rulings on a number of questions. For instance, can the county's permits bureau issue a building permit before receiving written approval from the Board of Zoning Appeals? Can a building permit even be issued while opponents of a project appeal the Board of Zoning Appeals' approval?

These legitimate questions need answers from a higher court. In fairness to all, the tower should not be built and the opponents should post a bond until the process of getting those answers is completed.

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