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Council clears barrier for cell phone tower in West Friendship

Back from a month-long recess, the council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday, Sept. 6 clearing the way for a 150-foot cell phone tower in West Friendship.

The resolution, which had been tabled since April, authorizes the county to release a small portion of property in West Friendship belonging to Trent Kittleman, the Republican nominee for county executive last year and widow of former state Sen. Robert Kittleman, from its Agricultural Land Preservation Easement so T-Mobile can install a 150-foot cell phone tower on it.

Because the county purchased the easement, Kittleman will have to pay the county $300 for the release of the 875 square feet needed for the tower, according to the resolution. In a previous interview, Kittleman said she accepted T-Mobile's offer to put a cell tower on her property so she can earn some money off the land, as the farm does not currently bring in any income.

The council waited five months to vote on the resolution so T-Mobile and nearby residents could compromise on the location of the tower.

"Based off of input from the community, T-Mobile has agreed to move the monopole (tower) to a new location," Fulton Republican Greg Fox, who represents West Friendship, said.

He commended the parties for reaching a solution and encouraged them "to continue to have these positive discussions."

At the same meeting, the council also introduced legislation dealing with home buyer assistance loans, ethics and eminent domain, among other topics.

The council will hold a public hearing on the legislation at the George Howard Building in Ellicott City, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m.

A resolution submitted by the county administration and co-sponsored by council Chairman Calvin Ball would amend the Settlement Downpayment Loan Program, established as a part of the county program that provides financial assistance to qualified home buyers.

Included in the proposed amendments are provisions requiring that applicants' total monthly debt expenses — which in addition to mortgage payments includes other loan and credit card payments — not exceed 45 percent of their monthly income and that the home they are buying be used as their primary residence.

"We can't control much of the (housing) market and private business, but the aspects of the market we do have control over, we're making sure that we're helping people act responsibly," Ball said.

The administration also introduced a bill to change the county's ethics law to comply with conflict of interest and financial disclosure requirements in the state's ethics law.

Local jurisdictions throughout the Maryland have to change their ethics laws because the State Ethics Commission wants "requirements for local elected officials that are at least as stringent as requirements for state public officials," according to the council bill.

The council's four Democrats — Ball, Mary Kay Sigaty, Jen Terrasa and Courtney Watson — are co-sponsoring the bill.

Meanwhile, the council's lone Republican, Greg Fox, introduced a resolution to amend the county charter to regulate the county's ability to use eminent domain.

His resolution, aimed to prevent the county from using eminent domain for economic development, stems from worries that the county will condemn land owned by Clarksville businesses to build an access road to the former Gateway School property off Route 108, where a mixed-use development is planned.

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