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Item in The Northwest Current, 8/6/03

Tenleytown TV tower hits another snag

Elizabeth Wiener

In another blow to American Tower Corp.'s plan for a giant telecommunications tower in Tenleytown, the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment Tuesday rejected the company's request to reconsider its decision that appeals were simply filed too late.

Last winter the company appealed the city's October 2000 revocation of building permits, based on inadequate side yards and other setbacks. But the zoning board ruled in April, and reaffirmed this week, that American Tower had missed the deadline for appeals and could not mount a substantive case.

"They failed to appeal within 60 days," said board member Ruthanne Miller. "I find no authority to reverse this board's order."

The five-member board agreed, unanimously.

It has been nearly three years since the city Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs pulled permits on the half-built tower, after an uproar from neighbors who said the planned 756-foot structure could be hazardous and unsightly in the busy commercial area flanking Wisconsin Avenue at Brandywine Street.

Since then, a U.S. District Court judge threw out American Tower's $250 million lawsuit against the city, then denied the company's request for reconsideration of that decision. A U.S. Court of Appeals panel later upheld the lower court.

The company still has a lawsuit pending in D.C. Superior Court. The city attorneys say they will now seek dismissal of that case, based on the zoning board ruling. Since appeals of the permit revocation failed, albeit on technical timeliness grounds, the revocation can no longer be legally challenged, they argue.

Eric Von Salzen, an attorney for the Boston-based American Tower, said the firm is not dragging out the case. "When we win, the other guys will appeal," Von Salzen said. "American Tower lost a lot of money. Why is D.C. trying so hard to keep us from being heard on the merits?"

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