Plan to build tower in Westminster OK'd

Its location near airport could obstruct air traffic, nearby residents say

April 17, 2002|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Carroll County Planning Commission approved yesterday the construction plan for a 192-foot cell phone tower at Baugher's Orchard near Westminster over the objections of neighbors who say the tower would obstruct air traffic from nearby Carroll County Regional Airport.

Commission members opted not to address airport safety issues, saying those issues had been dealt with by the Federal Aviation Administration and at hearings before the county Board of Zoning Appeals and several appeals courts.

The Board of Zoning Appeals set conditions that would require the tower's owner, Sprint PCS, to lower the structure or move it if it inhibits air traffic or airport expansion.

Residents who live near Baugher's, off Route 140 west of Westminster, said the conditions aren't specific or strict enough to be enforceable if problems arise with the tower.

They have been fighting to keep the tower away for almost three years and hope the Court of Special Appeals, which heard their arguments in January, will rule that Sprint can't build on the Baugher's site.

The appeals have included objections from pilots who use the airport and say the tower could make flying in and out awkward.

"Given the safety issues, it just doesn't seem like it would be that big a deal for Sprint to move the location for the tower," said David McIntyre, who lives less than a mile from the site.

McIntyre's wife, Kerri, presented more than an hour of detailed testimony yesterday, asking the planning commission to delay its decision until a meeting when her attorney could be present.

Commission members agreed that they had no jurisdiction to sort through most of the details Kerri McIntyre presented. "These are side issues," said commission member Melvin Baile Jr. in one of many attempts to keep discussion limited to the construction plan.

Sprint received a permit to build the tower from the Board of Zoning Appeals in May 2000. A Circuit Court judge upheld that decision. Given that legal standing, commission members said they had little reason to consider the tower a safety hazard. They also had no qualms about specifics of the construction plan.

After the decision in his favor, Allan Baugher, who will rent the land for the tower to Sprint, said he hoped no hard feelings would linger between him and the McIntyres, whom he called "neighbors I care about."

The commission also approved two other cell towers yesterday, a 190-foot tower to be built by American Tower off Route 94 in Woodbine and a 250-foot tower to be built by Omnipoint Communications off Route 97 in Woodbine.

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