Anne Arundel residents argue over plan to remove 15 communications towers Navy has proposed all to be taken down by 2000

site would be refuge

November 30, 1995|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A dispute over whether one or more of the Navy's landmark communications towers on Greenbury Point east of Annapolis should be saved erupted last night at a Navy-conducted public meeting on issues surrounding the planned removal of the towers.

The Navy wants to take down all 15 towers in 2000, under recommendations of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, which found the transmission station was obsolete.

The environmentally sensitive and archaeologically significant 231-acre peninsula is being turned over to the Naval Academy, which intends to maintain it as a wildlife refuge.

The first phase of the environmental assessment should be done by March, and the Navy is expected to decide by summer how it wants to proceed.

But last night's session showed the community is divided over whether it wants all the towers removed and how much public access there should be to the site.

The Navy is proposing to blast the towers with explosives or dismantle them by hand.

Former state Sen. Gerald Winegrad, who was considered the environmental conscience of the General Assembly, said he wanted all the towers removed and the area replanted.

"I would like to see all of the towers come down," said Mr. Winegrad, an Annapolis resident. "They don't have any more historical significance than a 70-year-old telephone pole."

But Steve Carr, president of the Severn River Association, disagreed.

"Did it [a telephone pole] track a mission to the moon?" he asked.

"The tower was the first line of defense in World War II," Mr. Carr continued. "To say it is the same as a telephone pole is culturally ignorant."

The facility was commissioned in 1918. Over the years, it communicated with the Atlantic Fleet and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and provided key defense communications through the Cold War.

Bob Bruninga of Glen Burnie said at least one tower should remain to alleviate pressure by cellular communications networks for "a lot of towers in your backyard."

"How will you address the commercial pressure?" Mr. Bruninga asked.

A 600-foot tower has a range halfway to Ocean City and Reston, Va., and could be used by cellular and digital communication networks, he said.

But the Naval Academy is reluctant to own any of the towers because it will not get money for maintenance, said Capt. Ed Wallace, deputy chief of operations for the academy.

Most of the approximately 50 people at the hearing agreed with archaeologists who want as little disturbance to the ground as possible because part of Providence, a 17th-century hamlet, is buried there.

Removing the towers will cost an estimated $4 million to $6 million, but that does not include the as-yet unknown cost of cleaning up of the areas around them.

The ground could be contaminated by lead or zinc from the paints used on the towers or by paint removers and other solvents.

Tests of the soil are under way, Navy officials said.

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