Alternative tower site discussed


Carroll County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said the commissioners might have found an alternative site for a controversial 200-foot telecommunications tower near Sykesville. But the second closed meeting in two weeks failed to produce a compromise between West Shore Communications Inc. and town officials.

Sykesville Mayor Jonathan Herman said that a number of alternatives were discussed in the Monday morning meeting, but he was uncertain whether a deal could be reached.

"The town is kind of caught between a rock and a hard place," said Mr. Herman, who was to present options to the Town Council in closed session last night. "We've got a lot of residents who aren't happy about the tower. Is there a win-win situation?"

Town officials have fought construction of the tower for more than two years and County Commissioners joined the dispute last fall.

West Shore Communications planned to build the tower on conservation-zoned land adjacent to Piney Run Reservoir and lease it to the Greenbelt-based company Cellular One.

Cellular One officials have said it took them about six months to locate the Hollenberry Road site, one of the highest elevations in the South Carroll area. Without a tower, the hilly terrain in the area often disrupts wireless communications, they said.

In October, the county Board of Zoning Appeals gave West Shore permission to build the steel free-standing tower on Hollenberry Road. Residents opposed the tower, saying it would be unsightly and possibly unsafe.

When West Shore began construction, the county issued a stop-work order. Kathy Blanco-Losada, who lives adjacent to the proposed tower site, and the town of Sykesville appealed the zoning board's decision to Carroll Circuit Court. A hearing is scheduled next month; construction is on hold until then.

Mr. Brown said yesterday that the county might have located a site that would not be as controversial. County officials are considering building a tower to be used for a proposed $6 million to $7 million emergency communications system, and the county could lease tower space to companies such as Cellular One and Bell Atlantic, he said.

"We've identified it [the site], but we haven't negotiated with the owners of the land," Mr. Brown said.

West Shore has repeatedly offered to give the county tower space for emergency communications if the structure is built on Hollenberry Road.

But Mr. Brown said he would not want the county to locate its antennae on the tower if it is built on Hollenberry Road. He also suggested some opposition might be diffused if West Shore built a pole tower instead of a three-prong tower.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said that elevation is the biggest issue in finding a usable site. He said the county should make a decision soon because West Shore has "been put off for two years."

Westminster attorney Clark R. Shaffer, who represents West Shore, would say only that the company, county and Sykesville officials discussed alternative sites at Monday's meeting, but that they did not reach a settlement.

Ms. Blanco-Losada referred questions to her attorney, Jeff Griffith of Westminster, but he was out of town Tuesday and yesterday.

Mr. Herman said he would relay the information he gathered at the meeting to Sykesville Town Council members and listen to their suggestions.

He said he hoped to get back to the commissioners by tomorrow.

Last fall, commissioners enacted an ordinance prohibiting tower construction without an adequate fall zone -- a distance equal to the height of the tower plus 50 feet. The requirement would make it impossible to build the tower on Hollenberry Road.

The ordinance also prohibits construction of towers in residential zones.

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