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Moratorium considered on construction of towers to serve cellular phones


Saying they don't understand why residents need so many cellular phones, Carroll Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Elmer C. Lippy agreed last week to consider temporarily preventing companies from building communications towers.

"I can't get excited about putting a bunch of towers up to serve cellular phones," Mr. Dell said.

L "There are telephones available everywhere," Mr. Lippy said.

The commissioners talked Thursday with County Attorney Charles W. Thompson Jr. about imposing a moratorium on mobile phone towers while county officials study the tower issue. Under zoning laws, the commissioners cannot impose a moratorium without consulting the county Planning Commission, Mr. Thompson said.

Mr. Dell and Mr. Lippy agreed to refer the issue to the Planning Commission. Commissioner Julia W. Gouge did not attend Thursday's meeting.

Earlier this month, Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown asked the commissioners to impose a 12- to 18-month moratorium to permit a study of possible health hazards, the impact on property values and communications alternatives.

Two companies -- Cellular One and Bell Atlantic -- want to build towers in Carroll.

The county Board of Zoning Appeals has given Cellular One approval to build two towers -- one in Sykesville and one in Frizzellburg. The company has applied to build another tower near Sykesville. The towers range from 150 feet to 250 feet high.

A company must apply to the zoning board for a special exception to build a tower.

If the commissioners decide to declare a moratorium after receiving a Planning Commission opinion, they must have a valid reason and they must set a time limit on the moratorium, Mr. Thompson said. Moratoriums affect residents' property rights, he said.

L "It's something you would do cautiously," the attorney said.

Mr. Dell said he was not inclined to impose a moratorium because the Board of Zoning Appeals handles each case individually and gives residents a chance to protest.

"Let the system function," he said.

But he said he is concerned that fire and police communications could be hampered if towers are limited.

"I'm worried about the radiation," Mr. Lippy said.

A Cellular One vice president told local officials in October that the towers are not dangerous and operate at a lower wattage than FM radio stations.

Worries about radiation emissions may not be a valid reason to declare a moratorium, because that issue may be outside the county's jurisdiction, Mr. Thompson said. The Federal Communications Commission or the Maryland Public Service Commission may regulate the safety issue, he said.

Concerns about the number of towers the companies want to build in Carroll may be an issue that the commissioners could regulate, Mr. Thompson said.

Three residents have written to the commissioners to oppose a tower at 7001 Hollenberry Road, just outside Sykesville. A zoning hearing is scheduled in late January.

"Is our county to be overrun with the frightening specter of towers on every horizon? Where is the reasonable voice of planned growth?" wrote Cathleen Heisch of the 6900 block of Beachmont Drive, Sykesville.

Harry and Audrey O'Sullivan of the 300 block of Neale Court wrote, "A 200-foot tower in this area adjacent to Piney Run Park would be an eyesore in an otherwise unspoiled landscape; property values will decrease, and health may be harmed.

ZTC "Please keep in mind that the Sykesville Little League ball fields are in close proximity to the proposed site," they wrote.

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