Dedicated to improving responsiveness and performance of Montgomery County Public Schools
Friday, January 7, 2011
Cell tower can go up next to Cresthaven Elementary School
This is an update on an application to place a cell phone tower on property next to Cresthaven Elementary School. The proposed placement of the cell phone tower compound would place the tower close enough to the new Cresthaven Elementary School that if the tower were to fall, it would fall on the school.
Previously, the Board of Appeals had denied this cell phone tower application. Now, however, that decision has been overruled and the tower can be constructed. Here is an update on this week's news on this application.
On Wednesday, 05 Jan. 2011, the Montgomery County Board of Appeals received Oral Argument in Case S-2709: Special Exception Application for Telecommunications Facility at WHSC [West Hillandale Swim Club]. As background, the Board received a Report and Recommendation to the Board of Appeals that this application should be denied from then-Director Carrier. Then, following a Hearing on Remand, the Board received a Supplemental Report and Recommendation with an even stronger recommendation for denial from Ms. Carrier’s predecessor, former Director Tierney. Both Hearing Examiners found that T-Mobile had failed to demonstrate that the facility would meet the legislated requirements in the Zoning Ordinance. There were also concerns about compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood.
At oral argument, the Opposition laid out numerous additional problems, including failure to meet several requirements of the zoning ordinance, adverse effects on safety, property values, views, and the general community, and conflicts with other laws (see attached text*). T-Mobile, at oral argument, sought to diminish the importance of details and precision. And it offered the Board assurance that it would be able to demonstrate meeting legislated requirements to County staff that it had failed to demonstrate during the two hearings.
Despite all of the evidence that the application did not meet the legislated requirements for a special exception in the Zoning Ordinance, and there were incompatibility issues with the neighborhood, and even though the Board of Appeals acknowledged that there were deficiencies, the Board granted this application for a special exception. In doing so, the Board has now left the matter to the County’s Code Enforcement staff to require T-Mobile to demonstrate compliance.
I have little doubt that if the Board had denied the application, with T-Mobile’s vast resources it would have appealed the decision to the courts. As T-Mobile is well aware, the Opposition does not have the financial resources to mount an appeal against T-Mobile. So, unfortunately, once the Board’s written Order is issued, T-Mobile will likely proceed with its plans to erect a cell tower at the West Hillandale Swim Club, next to Cresthaven Elementary School.
* Information in footnotes was only provided as needed, in response to Board questions. The board did not accept the chart mentioned.