Stop the Tower

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Letter to the editor, The Washington Times, 11/1/00

Tenleytown community wants tower taken down

At least Bob Morgan of American Tower and the residents of Tenleytown agree on one thing: Mayor Anthony Williams should "uphold the rule of law" when deciding the fate of a controversial telecommunications tower proposed for construction in Tenleytown ("Politics towers above," Oct. 23).

However, on the basis of the law, many of us who reside in Tenleytown have arrived at a different conclusion than that of American Tower. We believe the company erred in its choice of a site and must dismantle the partly built structure.

Mr. Morgan stresses repeatedly in his article that his company was issued a permit. On closer examination, city officials found notable flaws in the permit process. It remains to be determined why the permit was issued when local zoning laws should have prevented it and whether the company represented its intentions accurately in its permit application. In any case, the mayor revoked the permit because its validity was thrown into doubt.

Instead of resolving this amicably, American Tower has sued the city for $250 million--$245 million more than the actual cost of the tower--in a case to be heard by U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman.

Beyond the legal issues, this matter goes to the heart of corporate responsibility and public trust--which may explain why Mr. Morgan spends much of his article appealing to the court of public opinion.

"American Tower works closely with local jurisdictions and residents," says the company's Web page, "to create win-win solutions for communities with growing telecommunication needs." To declare this is one thing. To act on it is another. Why did the company exclude the residents rather than "work closely" together? Why has Mr. Morgan never spoken to us or sought our ideas for a "win-win" solution? We learned about the tower only after the workers had broken ground to lay the foundation.

With 40-some towers in this area, American Tower has enjoyed considerable support from our city. By now it ought to know the ropes of tower building, including the need to cooperate with those whose health and welfare such a structure would affect. It was as inappropriate to plan this tower without consulting residents beforehand as it would have been for us to build a giant incinerator next to Mr. Morgan's home in Massachusetts without so much as a how-do-you-do.

Most of the hundreds of neighbors working to remove this tower from its highly inappropriate location near a sidewalk in a heavily traveled corridor have never been involved in politics before. People beyond Tenleytown are also concerned. Children who attend the many schools near the tower, including Wilson High and Deal Junior High, arrive every morning from neighborhoods as distant as Brookland and Adams Morgan. Thousands of commuters who work in this community hail from Virginia and Maryland. This structure would affect each child or worker as surely as it would a homeowner or renter.

With so many schools in the path of the tower, no environmental impact statement performed, so many towers in this vicinity already, and other pressing issues such as zoning at stake, we deserve a better outcome than the company has planned. We believe, both for legal and ethical reasons, the tower should never have been placed where it is. Our goal is to rectify this situation immediately and help ensure it never happens anywhere else--in this city or country--again. American Tower should live up to its promise to work with the city and residents together to create a better solution.

Mr. Morgan has characterized these events as a "battle." That might explain why his company is flying an American flag from the half-erected tower, as if to imply it's unpatriotic to ask that one's voice be heard. We prefer to see it as a continuing negotiation. American Tower can rethink its position--as has been an option from the very beginning--about where it can best locate a suitable tower for maximum effect and minimum risk to all the people of the District of Columbia.


Copyright (c) 2000 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Other replies:

Damian Didian, letter to the editor, 11/3/00

Tim Cooper, op-ed piece, 11/5/00

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