Poplar Point residents grill Sprint officials about tower

March 22, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

Poplar Point residents irate at construction of a cellular phone tower did not get the answers they hoped for at a meeting last night with Sprint representatives on why no other site was feasible for the 130-foot tower they say has destroyed the character of their scenic Edgewater community.

Instead, Sprint representatives presented several "stealth designs" they said could be used to minimize the tower's visual presence, including reducing antennas on it from six to three or disguising it as a flag or light pole.

The residents - who want the tower removed - were unimpressed. "You've got to throw us more carrots than a flag," homeowner Preben Ostberg said.

"Why weren't we notified?" said resident Joe Smith, a retired Navy captain. "Couldn't your people even see that the commercial property [the tower was built on] was surrounded 360 degrees by residential property?"

Sprint says it complied with requirement of a 5-year-old county ordinance regulating tower construction - which does not require notification of owners of adjoining properties when towers are built on commercial land.

The tower is on the property of a truck repair, sales and storage facility and professional window cleaning service. The site abuts the community's only common area - an open field that serves as a picnic and play area.

Sprint attorney James Michal said the decision to build a tower was one of last resort, and that the company had considered four other locations along Route 2. He offered no details, but said landlords of those properties were unwilling to allow the construction, and the locations were not adequate to meet calling-area coverage objectives.

He said the Poplar Point site was not the "first choice," and that Sprint spent "several months" seeking alternatives. Michal's remarks were met with skepticism by residents who wanted proof alternative sites were considered.

At one point, Michal told the audience of about two dozen homeowners: "I could profess to be a prophet, and you're not going to believe what I say."

He said Sprint would continue to hear their concerns and work on a solution. The parties agreed to meet again in two weeks.

Michal conceded that Poplar Point was not the "best perfect site," and said the county should re-examine its zoning ordinance.

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