by KATE SHUNNEY
Cell phone provider U.S. Cellular is asking the Washington County Board of Zoning to grant them a special exemption in order to build a 195’ communications tower on the west side of Sideling Hill, just beyond the mountain’s rock cut and visitor’s center.
According to an April 12 project document, the monopole tower, with a four-ft. lightening rod on top, would be built at 15020 Mountain Road in Hancock.
A public hearing on the company’s zoning exemption request is set for Wednesday, May 2 at 7 p.m. in the county’s Public Meeting Room 2000 at 100 West Washington Street in Hagerstown. Legal notice of the hearing about the Hancock proposal ran in the Herald-Mail on April 17 and 18, according to county officials.
Application documents indicate that U.S. Cellular wants an exemption from the requirement to have a minimum 199-ft. clearance around the tower on the leased area. Instead, the company would like to build the tower with 50’ distance clearance on each side. The area is zoned Environmental Conservation.
Plans for the tower indicate it would be built on a 100’ by 100’ leased area with a 60’ by 60’ fenced compound around the base of the tower to hold associated equipment and technical components. The owners of the property where the company wants to build the tower are listed as Robert and Edna Hendershot.
U.S. Cellular indicates they would build the tower for their own antenna and microwave dish and for future companies that might want to place their communications equipment there.
Photo renderings of the proposed tower on engineering drawings show that it would visible to eastbound drivers as they approach the rock cut at the top of Sideling Hill and to westbound drivers who pass through the cut.
According to U.S. Cellular engineer Philip Leite in a letter to the county zoning board, the location of the tower is necessary to fill a communications coverage gap on the west side of Sideling Hill Mountain just beyond the rest area without intruding into the territory of other communications carriers.
The zoning board is expected to issue a decision on the exemption request at the May 2 meeting.
Questions or comments about the application can be directed to Kathy Kroboth, Zoning Coordinator, at 240-313-2469 or by email at KKroboth@washco-md.net. Citizens can refer to Docket No. AP2018-011 in their comments.