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Hearings still needed for communications towers


The county will continue to hold public hearings on any proposed communications towers more than 100 feet tall.

"We are not outlawing towers, but we are encouraging review," said zoning administrator Solveig Smith, at a meeting of the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission yesterday.

In some areas of the county, residents have protested plans to erect new towers for cellular telephone equipment.

The commission unanimously passed several amendments to existing regulations, including setback requirements, site plan reviews and emphasis on efforts to build on existing towers before any new construction is approved.

The Carroll County commissioners must approve the draft and schedule a public hearing on it.

J. Michael Evans, county director of general services, said he hoped the new regulations would encourage companies to put relay equipment on existing towers -- called co-location -- and so "eliminate the proliferation of antennas in the county."

"Whoever wants to put up an antenna has to exhaust options on existing towers before they will be allowed to build in the county," said Mr. Evans.

The Board of Zoning Appeals will continue to decide whether towers more than 100 feet tall meet conditional-use requirements.

Clark R. Shaffer, attorney for Bell Atlantic, acknowledged that construction must be regulated. But he called 100 feet "too restrictive."

"Below 100 feet is not high enough for co-location and encourages establishment of smaller, less regulated towers," he said.

Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown, who has led efforts to check tower construction, said he doubted that communications companies would be building small towers.

"I have heard repeatedly that it is more economical to build larger towers," said the mayor.

Mr. Shaffer also took issue with the 1,000-foot setback -- "too onerous" for towers built in business and industrial districts.

The commission revised that proposal to make the setback three times the height of the tower, up to 1,000 feet, in commercial areas.

In residential areas, the setback would be increased from 700 feet to 1,000 feet "in direct response to Hollenberry Road residents who said 700 feet was not enough," said Ms. Smith.

That reference was to residents who petitioned unsuccessfully against construction of a 200-foot tower on conservation-zoned land near Sykesville.

Mr. Evans asked the commission to "keep in mind others will want to construct towers for various reasons. Cellular phones are not the only things which operate off towers."

Commissioners Robert Lennon and Dennis Bowman argued that the county should not place itself in a position of determining potential health risks from towers.

The commission eliminated from the draft language on health risks.

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