Plans for wireless phone towers irk residents, draw warning

April 09, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The army of wireless telephone towers advancing on Baltimore County neighborhoods has triggered complaints from residents -- and a warning from County Council members.

A council resolution urges a temporary moratorium on permits for new towers where some already exist, a measure designed to push phone companies to use existing structures.

The resolution that passed unanimously Monday night has no legal force. Still, it worries lawyers for wireless phone companies who know that new zoning restrictions in the county might be on the horizon.

Robert A. Hoffman, attorney for Bell Atlantic NYNEX Mobile, said the resolution could influence the planning board, which soon will consider zoning law changes affecting the towers. Those proposed changes will go to the council, which has the final say.

"It sets a different tone," Hoffman said, noting that he tried to get the council to delay voting on the resolution but failed.

Council Chairman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat, said he and co-sponsor Stephen G. Sam Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat, wanted to give county planners a "friendly nudge" to quickly produce recommendations on changing 1986 zoning laws -- a request the council made in August.

Meanwhile, councilmen keep getting complaints from neighborhoods where towers are proposed.

Near Greenspring Avenue and the Beltway, a planned Bell Atlantic NYNEX Mobile tower has residents riled, though the company plans to make it look like a pine tree. In the Valewood neighborhood east of Providence Road near Seminary Avenue, another set of complaints has been sparked.

William Gill and his Valewood neighbors have fought plans for a 150-foot tower next to the nearby Belvedere Baptist Church, at 1301 Cheverly Road. They lost another battle April 1, when the county Board of Appeals upheld a decision allowing American Personal Communications Inc. to build there. Meanwhile, the nearby Providence Volunteer Fire Company will seek approval at an April 22 hearing for a 145-foot AT&T Corp. tower on its property.

Hillorie S. Morrison, the county planner working on the report, said it has taken longer to produce because of legal complications in last year's federal Telecommunications Act, which appears to limit the power of local governments to regulate towers. "Everything local government does, the industry has challenged," she says, adding that 90 percent of the antennas are on existing buildings or towers. The planning board should begin discussing the issue next month, hold a public hearing in June and get a report to the County Council this summer, she said.

Pub Date: 4/09/97

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