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Cellular tower site a close call


Communications companies dangled an unpleasant alternative before the Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals this week.

If the board rejects a proposed 250-foot tower in Crofton, the companies said, they will need more antenna sites -- some perhaps requiring more towers -- to provide the same cellular phone coverage.

"That puts us in a real awkward situation, one site vs. multiple sites -- the impact on the community," board member F. George Deuringer responded yesterday.

Tower opponents said that with at least two water towers, two tall buildings and three other communications towers within a few miles of the proposed site, the cellular companies could make do by building the antenna on one of the existing structures.

In the first communications tower case to be heard by the board, West Shore Communications Inc. of Odenton is seeking a variance and a zoning exception to build the 250-foot tower at the Arundel Volunteer Fire Department on Route 424 next to a planned athletic complex.

With the growth of cellular communications nationally -- car phones, pagers, data transmission and personal communication systems -- the technology has expanded from business uses to residential areas, such as Crofton, where there are gaps in service.

Growth has also meant a proliferation of towers and poles -- and zoning hearings. The Crofton case was appealed from a January denial of the variance by the county's administrative hearing officer, Robert C. Wilcox. The County Council is to consider amending the zoning code to address some of the issues raised.

Over two days of testimony, three companies said the proposed tower site would suit their needs perfectly.

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