Residents fighting tower location near Woodland

See an editorial on page 62

By Lynn R. Parks

It's bad enough that a 180-foot monopole is being planned for an area near the Nanticoke River, about 1/2 mile south of Woodland, said George Jacobs, who lives in Patty Cannon Estates a little more than 1/4 mile south of the proposed site. "This tower should not be built in a residential and scenic area," Jacobs said. "It is just going to be a monster out there." But it is ludicrous, he added, that Cingular Wireless, the cellular communications company that wants to put in the tower, is suggesting that the pole be disguised as a tree. "I don't know what some people think of, but if they do that it's going to look ridiculous," said Jacobs. "If the tower has to be here, I'd rather see just a plain pole." The pole is planned for a site near Woodland Ferry Road at Deer Lane. The property is owned by Byard Layton. According to Cingular spokeswoman Ellen Webner, the monopole would hold antennas that would provide cell phone coverage for a 3-mile radius. She said that plans call for the monopole to be "camouflaged" with tree branches. Area residents said that they have been told that the branches would start at about 75 feet and go up to the peak.

Trees in the area are about 45 feet tall, meaning that branches would start at about 30 feet higher than neighboring trees. The pole would tower more than 130 feet above the rest of the forest. Jacobs is among several area residents who are urging the county to deny a permit to construct the tower. The Sussex County Board of Adjustment voted on March 6 to require Cingular to obtain a study of how the monopole would affect the Woodland Ferry and Cannon Hall in Woodland, both of which are part of the National Register of Historic Places. Such a study is required by the federal government whenever proposed construction involving federal funds could impact a site on the register. Webner said that Cingular has already initiated the study. She anticipates that it will take "a couple of months from now" to complete. After receiving the study, the county Board of Adjustment will make its decision. Anyone who wants to appeal a Board of Adjustment does through so Superior Court. Holly Conaway, whose family has lived on the river for more than two centuries, said that the monopole would violate the historic and rural feel of the area. "It is not in keeping with the pristine, natural scenery," she said. "We have lived here for more than 200 years and we appreciate the beauty that is here." Conaway said that she was pleased with the county's Board of Adjustment ruling. Having to complete the study will "open the process for the public to comment," she said. "Maybe that will help the county realize the importance of the area's natural areas and enact laws that will protect them." Webner said that Cingular is planning a demonstration at the proposed monopole site. The company would use either a model of the monopole or a hot air balloon to demonstrate how tall the tower would be. The event will not be open to the general public, she added. Residents in the area will be notified of when it will take place.

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