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Town hall meeting set for April 21

By SARAH FLEISCHMAN

Staff writer

The possible construction of a telecommunications tower off Adelina Road in Prince Frederick is causing some concern among community members.

On Jan. 2, the Calvert County Board of Appeals heard four cases for exceptions to county zoning ordinances to allow the possible construction of four monopole towers by Telecom Capital Group LLC.

In addition to the tower proposed on Adelina Road, TCG applied for special exceptions for three other towers. Two were granted the exceptions: one in the 300 block of Sixes Road in Prince Frederick and another in the 1400 block of Skinners Road in Owings. A fourth tower in Lusby was deferred at the board of appeals hearing Jan. 2 because the application did not have all required materials, including an evaluation by the Maryland Aviation Authority. The Adelina Road tower was deferred for the same reason. The application for the Lusby monopole tower was withdrawn by TCG on April 2, said Roxana Whitt, Calvert County Board of Appeals administrator.

Aesthetic and safety reasons are the main concerns of residents opposed to the Adelina Road project, Adelina Road resident Sherry Lancaster said. Community members are planning a town hall meeting for April 21 to discuss the proposed tower.

“I think it’s going to be an ugly addition,” Lancaster said. “The community does not want it.”

But Del. Mark Fisher (R-Calvert), the owner of TCG, said the monopole tower is not a cell tower. Cell towers are typically latticed with three or four legs. This tower is a single pole and is easier to hide from view, he said.

Lancaster said she also is concerned about the possibility of cancerous radioactive signals being sent from the equipment on the tower. Although the Federal Communications Commission must approve the equipment, Lancaster said she is skeptical.

“There are more RF [radio frequency] signals inside someone’s house from their own TV,” Fisher said. “The dangers of RFs have been well published and is very transparent.”

Lisa Orsie, the owner of the proposed site of land, a 21.7-acre tract currently in the agricultural preservation program, said the tower is safe.

“Do you really think I would want a tower near me if it was going to be harmful?” Orsie said.

The address of Orsie’s property actually is on Sheridan Point Road, but it has an access point off Adelina Road, according to the 81-page transcript from January’s board of appeals hearing. There is an opening in the forest that could accommodate the construction of a 640-square-foot compound and tower. The Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board already granted the approval to place a tower on the property, according to the transcript.

When Orsie was approached about having her land be the site of the tower, she didn’t know it would be so controversial.

“I think the controversy is very, very disturbing,” Orsie said. “If the tower doesn’t go on my property, it will go on someone else’s.”

Orsie said her property is the best location available because the mature pine trees will hide the structure from view, but the elevation is just right for the tower.

The tower is needed to provide better service on the Adelina Road peninsula, Fisher said. Although some residents may be satisfied with their wireless services, there are some areas where calls are dropped or won’t even go through, which is a problem when people may need to call 911 on their cellphones.

“My cell service is better than it has ever been,” Lancaster said Tuesday.

The tower would serve a radius of a mile and a half and could provide wireless television services that would compete with companies such as Comcast and Verizon, Fisher said Wednesday.

Another concern for one resident is how the tower would affect planes. The Adelina Road tower application for a zoning exemption was deferred by the board of appeals in January because it did not include an evaluation by the MAA.

Since then, the MAA expressed concern that the tower would be within the flight paths of planes to and from the privately owned Sandy Point Airport. The MAA required the tower either be reduced in height from the original 195-foot-tall tower originally proposed to one below 174 feet, or relocated, according to a Feb. 7 email from Sean Hammer, airport services manager at the Office of Regional Aviation Assistance.

At the hearing in January, Gary Hammett testified to the board about the airport, which he owns. There already are barriers that make taking off and landing difficult, and the monopole tower would be an added difficulty. The tower would be directly underneath Hammett’s approach, he said Tuesday.

Sometimes, the airport is used by state police and medical aircrafts and for emergency landings of other planes. If the tower were to be built, there would be 200 feet between landing planes and the top of the structure during approach, he said Tuesday.

“I’m in favor of the communication tower, but its location is what bothers me,” Hammett said.

Fisher said it could be many months and years before the monopole tower is constructed. He said the community meetings during the past few months, including the upcoming meeting April 21, serve to educate residents and come up with a consensus. He is open to other suitable locations to serve the Adelina Road peninsula, he said Wednesday.

“We’re very much in the beginning stages,” Fisher said.

The town hall meeting on the Adelina Road monopole tower will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 21, at Carroll Western United Methodist Church.

sfleischman@somdnews.com