Two activists protest withdrawal of county bill to temporarily halt building of cell phone towers

December 02, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A bill to temporarily halt construction of cellular telephone towers in rural parts of Baltimore County was withdrawn before a vote by the County Council last night, angering two community activists attending the meeting.

"Not only do I have the courage of my convictions, but I'm a man of my word," said Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county-Owings Mills Republican who sponsored the bill and then withdrew the proposed four-month ban.

McIntire has said repeatedly that his bill was an attempt to get cooperation from the industry, and that he would withdraw it if the industry agreed to work with the county to limit the towers as much as possible.

Last night, McIntire said each company had contacted him personally to promise that cooperation. The companies have been focusing their attention on the Interstate 83 corridor north of Hunt Valley, which lacks towers but where eight are proposed.

Controversy over cellular phone towers -- some of them as high as 200 feet -- has grown in residential and rural areas throughout the county. But federal law prohibits local governments from banning them entirely.

Ruppersberger administration officials and McIntire say the industry has agreed to hold off voluntarily on new towers until the county adopts a law requiring a special zoning exception and a public hearing to build them in residential or rural areas. A County Council hearing on that proposal is scheduled for Dec. 15.

That did not satisfy the towers' critics, however.

Richard W. McQuaid, president of the North County Coalition, told the council after the meeting that residents of his area have been "disenfranchised" by a councilman more concerned with pleasing cell phone companies than protecting his constituents.

The other activist, Louis W. Miller, zoning chairman of the Greater Timonium Community Council, asked for more time before the public hearing is held.

But Council Chairman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat, said the early hearing would speed legal protection to people trying to limit the towers, and would not limit their ability to comment on a bill.

In other action, the council approved a series of resolutions and a 99-year lease to allow a long-planned apartment house for the elderly to be built by Catholic Charities on 3.3 acres of county-owned land on Hollins Ferry Road.

One councilman -- Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat -- voted last night against the $4.6 million project, which has government loans and funding, objecting to a $541,417 pTC "developer's fee" that will go to Catholic Charities as a hedge against financial losses.

The land originally was intended as a small park for Lansdowne, a densely populated but physically isolated enclave in southwestern Baltimore County. To accommodate the 64 new apartments for the low-income elderly, the county agreed to lease the parkland for $1 per year and buy 3 acres elsewhere in the community.

Also, the council voted 4-2 with one abstention to approve a pilot state anti-sprawl program to give $3,000 each to 10 employees of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County who buy their first homes near their workplace in the southwestern county.

The measure, to take effect in 45 days, provides the payment to UMBC employers who buy existing homes. They are required to live in them at least three years to keep all of the money.

Pub Date: 12/02/97

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