Resident contests cell tower on the Web

He launches site to help community in fight with Sprint


March 27, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

Harnessing the power of one technology to fight another, a Poplar Point resident has launched a Web site to aid the upscale community's monthlong battle with Sprint to remove a 130-foot cellular phone tower that residents say has destroyed the character of their scenic Edgewater community.

"For wireless phone services, the race is on to trash our communities!" shouts the headline on the newsletter-style Internet site at sprint. "Fight cell towers in residential areas!"

The site was created by real estate salesman Winfield Vining, the Poplar Point resident who lives closest to the tower with his wife, Pia, and their 2-year-old son, Blake. Vining said he launched the site after finding a similar one detailing the successful three-year battle waged by residents of a neighborhood in Jacksonville, Fla., against a Sprint cell tower.

"I thought it was important to spread word that they can be taken down," said Vining, 38. "The Internet is an excellent way to spread the word about this kind of thing."

Part town crier, part one-stop information center, the Web site states as its mission raising awareness about cell towers so other communities can protect themselves; providing a "wake-up call" to county officials about "inadequacies" of zoning regulations; and promoting "responsible planning and placement of these unattractive and potentially hazardous edifices."

The site chronicles the history of the Poplar Point dispute and features links to news articles about cell tower regulations. Vining says he is constantly updating the site and plans to add a "Hall of Shame" with names and pictures of corporate and county officials, a repository of cell tower disputes and a public meeting schedule to inform people of cell tower hearings in Poplar Point and other communities.

"A big enough angry crowd at a public hearing can be enough to persuade these carriers," Vining said. "It's all about responsible planning."

Poplar Point residents say lack of notification by Sprint is what has them fuming. Sprint built the tower March 1 without notifying the community, though the commercial property the tower was built on abuts Poplar Point's only common area - an open field that serves as a picnic spot and playground.

Sprint maintains that it complied with requirements of a 5-year-old county ordinance regulating tower construction - which does not require notifying 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 a professional window-cleaning service.

Sprint has been in talks with Poplar Point Community Association to resolve the situation. The parties are to meet again April 4. "The site is nothing radical. It just tells the truth," Vining said yesterday. "If these things were planned properly, I wouldn't have a problem with them."

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