Towering error More rational policy is needed for locating radio towers.

November 20, 1995

BY GIVING WCBM-AM a conditional use permit to construct six radio towers on farm property off Hoods Mill Road in southern Carroll, the county's Board of Zoning Appeals has thrust the door wide open for other radio stations to place these monstrosities just about any place they please. Considering the obtrusive nature of large radio towers, the board should have paid more attention to the long-range implications of its action.

Many stations would love to move their towers to Carroll, particularly those with facilities now on valuable real estate. In many cases, these towers were constructed years ago in remote fields far from the city core. After decades of spreading suburbia, however, many of these towers sit on land that has become more desirable from a development viewpoint. By relocating these towers, many of these stations could generate a much greater return from their land.

WCBM's plan is an example of this dynamic at work. The station currently has its four towers in a field in Owings Mills. When they were built, the surrounding area was hardly developed. In the past 15 years, however, a dramatic change has transformed the neighborhood. A Metro station opened within walking distance. The Rouse Co. built a major regional shopping mall nearby. A BJ's Warehouse was constructed on adjacent land.

Understandably, the Mangione family, which owns WCBM and has been involved in numerous residential and commercial developments, wants to put its large tract to better use. Moving the towers to agricultural turf in Carroll would be an inexpensive way to rid the Owings Mills land of the towers and keep the radio station operating.

Radio towers are a necessary evil of modern living. Carroll will undoubtedly be home to its share of these, but they should not be scattered helter-skelter across the countryside. The county needs to develop a rational plan that restricts radio towers, as well as cellular phone towers, which have been another source of controversy. Towers should be erected on industrial or commercial land on or near existing development so as not to impinge on homes.

Carroll's planning commission and the County Commissioners need to develop a policy to which the zoning board can refer the next time it reviews a radio tower application.

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