Tower rules could stop project near Sykesville


New county regulations governing telecommunications towers may prevent construction of one proposed for conservation land outside Sykesville.

The county has not issued building permits for the 200-foot tower that West Shore Communications plans to construct on Hollenberry Road and lease to Cellular One and several other communications companies.

"If the new ordinance is in effect before West Shore gets its permits, it may cancel out the grandfathering," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell, referring to a practice that excludes existing projects from new regulations.

The county held a public hearing Tuesday on the proposed ordinance and will keep the record open for comment 10 days before voting. The ordinance could take effect 10 days after the commissioners' vote and as early as Nov. 7.

The ordinance states it will be effective "upon adoption and shall apply to any pending applications for which the Zoning Administrator has not issued a certificate."

Mark Sapperstein, West Shore vice president, was not available for comment.

The Sykesville tower awaits development review, electrical permits and a sign-off from the Department of General Services, said George Beisser, chief of zoning enforcement. He would not estimate how long it would take to obtain those approvals.

"Once all approvals are met, the permit can be issued," Mr. Beisser said.

Only towers for which permits have been issued would be excluded from the regulations, said Beth Evans, county attorney.

"If the ordinance is adopted as is or with staff recommendations, it looks like the Sykesville tower could not be built," she said.

Since the Board of Zoning Appeals approved a variance in February that allowed tower construction, West Shore has been pushing the project through the permit process. The tower, less than a mile from the Sykesville town limits, has generated intense opposition from nearby residents and from the town.

The hilly terrain often causes communication gaps in the South Carroll area. West Shore, which has built several towers in the state, has offered county Emergency Service Operations free tower space.

Mr. Dell and Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said they are opposed to towers in residential areas and are including that language in the ordinance.

"I hold strong for no towers in residential areas," Mr. Dell said.

Mr. Lippy went further.

"I would eliminate towers from both conservation and residential areas," he said. "They should only be allowed in agricultural, business or industrial zones."

RF Both commissioners also insist on a required fall zone -- the area

in which a tower might land, if it fell intact -- of at least the height of the tower.

In August, the county Planning and Zoning Commission waived the fall-zone requirement for the Sykesville tower. Mr. Dell, an ex-officio member of the commission, cast the only vote against the waiver.

Several homes are well within 1,000 feet of the Sykesville tower. The proposed ordinance states the fall zone should be "five times the height of the tower from the nearest point of any dwelling, school, church or institution of human care."

Residents, who live on property adjoining the tower site, have appealed the fall-zone waiver and will be heard at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday before the Board of Zoning Appeals.

With the new regulation, the waiver "may be a moot point," said Mr. Dell.

The appeals board also will hear an appeal from the town Wednesday. Sykesville has said the county violated their site plan approval agreement by not formally notifying the town of the hearings.

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