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Residents protest mobile communications tower


An Anne Arundel County hearing examiner tried to appease angry Pasadena residents yesterday by trying to find alternatives to a 225-foot mobile communications tower proposed for the area.

At least a dozen angry Chesterfield and Westwood Manor residents protested an application for a special exception and a variance application that was submitted by West Shore Communications Co. The exceptions would let the company build the tower behind the Eastern District police station on Mountain Road. It would be closer to property lines and nearly 200 feet higher than county zoning regulations permit.

Residents said they fear the tower would drive down the values of their near-$200,000 homes.

"We're concerned about property values and also the typical health and safety issues," said Marian Cotham, who lives in Westwood Manor. She brought a petition signed by all 60 of her neighbors, many of whom didn't know about the tower until they heard about it at a meeting in her home last Thursday night.

Robert C. Wilcox, the hearing officer, has 30 days to decide on the case, which almost certainly will be appealed.

Jay Winer, president of West Shore Communications, said the tower's height would permit more than one cellular phone company to use it. "The whole idea is to build a single tower and have all four [licensed] companies to use it," he said. "They all have the same problem in coverage in that area. If we weren't able to provide a single tower for more than one user, then more than likely you'll have a single carrier that's trying to find a private spot."

Zoning regulations require a 50-foot buffer between property lines and public utilities in residential areas and prohibit any structure taller than 35 feet. Two maintenance buildings for the tower would be built 25 feet from Chesterfield property lines.

Mr. Winer said his tower could accommodate four cellular phone companies, some of the county's communications needs and antennas for paging companies. In September, the County Council approved a 15-year lease for West Shore communications to build and use the tower.

The approval was made on condition that the company get zoning approval, said Jerome W. Klasmeier, director of central services. The company would pay the county $52,000 to use the land, he said, adding that there is "a public need for this tower."

During the hearing, representatives of Cellular One and American Personal Communications mobile telephone companies told Mr. Wilcox that the nearby 165-foot water tower has an antenna for a paging company and could probably hold antennas for a cellular phone company but could not accommodate more than one antenna. They said their companies couldn't find other suitable structures or places to build a tower within a half-mile radius.

Pasadena residents said they were concerned that transmissions to and from the tower would interfere with their home appliances, but Jim Jimreivat, an electrical engineer from Cellular One testified that the tower would not cause interference in homes.

Chesterfield resident Sandy Millenburg said the tower would benefit only the company that builds it. "We're talking about West Shore profits pure and simple," she said.

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