Article in The Washington Times, "Forum" section, 3/18/01
The Hour of the Tower
If it were up to the Ward 3 Neighborhood Advisory Commission (ANC), building of the Tenleytown telecommunications tower can continue as long as it has certain facade treatments. "They were very receptive and appeared to understand the situation," said John Brennan, a lawyer for the tower project who spoke at a recent group meeting at the Tenleytown Library .
The tower, already under construction, and located less than a block from that meeting's location in Northwest Washington, has generated widespread public interest, discussion, and a $250 million lawsuit against the mayor and head of the city's Department of Regulatory Affairs. A Ward 3 citizens group, the Stop the Tower Citizens' Coalition, headed by Timothy Cooper, protested building of the tower sufficiently enough that Mayor Anthony Williams halted its construction in October 2000. "They had been misinformed about the project and did not understand the legal issues," Mr. Brennan said after the meeting, which Mr. Cooper did not attend.
"Wireless telecommunications and HDTV [high density television] are the cutting edge of today's technology and the state-of-the-art transmission tower being constructed represents a breakthrough in telecommunications infrastructure. It will enable the entire metropolitan area to benefit from this new technology," Robert Morgan, an American Tower vice president told the group. Mr. Morgan told the group that the new tower, which replaces three deteriorating ones, is in the interest of District residents and allows local people to have access to HDTV and increased cell phone usage and wireless services. Principal questions posed by the ANC group centered on the height of the tower, and health and environment concerns they had. American Tower's engineer pointed out that the completed tower will stand 756 feet, 25 feet higher than another existing broadcasting tower on that location. He informed them that no other District location is suitable for the placement of this tower, based on Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements. He said possible environmental and radiation emissions harm would be below federal rules and guidelines and significantly decreased from the emission levels of towers the new one will replace. The American Tower engineer also pointed out that the company has more than 15,000 such towers throughout the country and in locations with much more severe weather conditions and had experienced no problems of people or property being harmed from ice falling from the structures.
Many ANC meeting participants actively encouraged and endorsed the various facades that were on display. But some voiced concerns regarding the tower company's lawsuit against the city government was punitive [sic], because American Tower is seeking $250 million for the project's stoppage. Mr. Morgan pointed out that "We don't want the lawsuit, we want to build the tower." The ANC group also chided American Tower for a lapse in community relations and not presenting its plans to them in advance of the project. In response, Mr. Brennan cited the fact that his office had secured a legal permit for the project and normal procedures do not require community input.
Jackson and Campbell law firm attorney Robert Cooper told the group, "American Tower is constructing the tower in full compliance with all appropriate D.C. zoning laws and has complied with every law, regulation and request for information by regulatory authorities." Mr. Morgan said the company is paying more than $3,000 a week to protect the property during the idle period.
The mayor, who did not attend the meeting, is facing numerous complaints from citizens and a current recall effort. Pro-business groups, such as the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Business Exchange Network, have decried his halting the tower project as "anti-business." He is also under attack for attempting to place a trash transfer station in Ward 8 and the closing of D.C. General Hospital in Ward 6.
The author is president of the Business Exchange Network