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County zoning board denies Sideling Hill tower request

by KATE SHUNNEY

The Washington County Board of Zoning denied a request on May 2 from cell phone provider U.S. Cellular to secure an exception to county rules and allow the construction of a 195’ monopole tower on Sideling Hill Mountain.

In a 3-2 vote, the board rejected the request to build the tower at 15020 Mountain Road, just west of the Sideling Hill visitors center .

Application documents indicate that U.S. Cellular wanted a variance from the requirement to have a minimum 199-ft. clearance around the tower on leased land. Instead, the company wanted to build the tower with 50’ distance clearance on each side.

In a County Commission meeting in Hancock on May 1, county zoning administrator Timothy Lung said U.S. Cellular also needed an exception to county rules to build the tower because it wasn’t in an industrial zone. All communications towers outside of industrial zones require an exception, Lung said. The area of the proposed tower construction is zoned Environmental Conservation.

Board members Paul Fulk, Michael Zampelli and John Cohill voted against the tower request on May 2. Jay Miller and Marvin Gower voted in favor of it, said  zoning coordinator Kathy Kroboth. Cohill is an appointee from Hancock.

Kroboth declined to say what the primary reasons were for the denial, but said a written opinion from the board about the exception request would be issued within 30 days of the May 2 decision. The opinion will be sent to the applicant and posted on the department’s website.

County rules specify the board may reject an exception request “where the Board finds the proposed building, addition, extension of building or use, sign, use or change of use would adversely affect the public health, safety, security, morals or people living in the neighborhood.”

U.S. Cellular indicated they wanted to build the tower for their own antenna and microwave dish and for future companies that might want to place their communications equipment there. They cited a need to “fill a communications coverage gap” on the west side of Sideling Hill Mountain.

Renderings of the proposed tower showed that it would be visible to westbound travelers on I-68 as they emerged from the Sideling Hill rock cut, and slightly visible to eastbound travelers.

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