A towering concern for residents Towson area objects to Sprint's proposed 15-story 'monopole'

July 30, 1996|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

A beleaguered Towson neighborhood has lived with interference from two giant radio towers for more than a decade. Now its residents are being asked to accept a 150-foot communications pole.

Bethesda-based American Personal Communications, builder of the nation's first all-digital wireless telephone network, wants to erect the 15-story pole off Providence Road near the Beltway to accommodate users in the area. It is seeking a special zoning exception for the site next to Belvedere Baptist Church in the middle of the residential area.

More than 30 residents expressed their frustration about the "monopole" yesterday, the second day of a zoning hearing that was continued from last week.

Their concerns included whether the antennas could be attached to one of the radio towers instead of requiring a new pole or whether the structure could be located on another site.

"It's going to be an eyesore for the neighborhood," said Angela E. Lekas, who has lived on nearby Pickford Court for 25 years. "I don't want our properties to depreciate."

Zoning Commissioner Lawrence E. Schmidt did not issue a decision yesterday, saying he would issue it in writing after he visited the community that includes Hampton Gardens.

While a broadcast engineer gave testimony at yesterday's hearing that the antennas could be attached to the existing 312-foot AM radio tower on Hart Road, an electrical engineer for APC countered that the tower generated too much energy and would not allow the antennas to operate.

The residents said they also feared interruptions on their phones, stereos and televisions -- such as they've received from the radio towers -- from the new Sprint Spectrum technology that debuted in Baltimore and Washington in November. Sprint Spectrum is the brand name used by APC for its "personal communications services" (PCS) network.

A PCS handset can receive calls, pages and electronic messages. The technology differs from conventional cellular phone networks in the region, such as Bell Atlantic Nynex Mobile and Cellular One.

APC has 300 antenna sites in the area, with 85 percent, or about 255, of those located on existing structures, said Gregory E. Sarro, APC manager of zoning. He added that the company couldn't find a suitable building on which to add the needed Towson antennas.

In closing statements at the zoning hearing, Christine K. McSherry, attorney for APC, said the company "has no choice but to build a monopole," although "they've avoided them like the plague."

McSherry also dismissed the residents' contention that APC could build the tower at Providence Volunteer Fire Company on Providence Road. "It is an impossible site because of the many variances required," she said.

Pub Date: 7/30/96

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