Monday, 17 December 2018
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‘There was no stopping’ cell tower construction, MLP mayor reports

MTN. LAKE PARK — The U.S. Cellular tower planned for the “no-man’s land” between Oakland and Mountain Lake Park “is up,” Mayor Don Sincell reported during a recent MLP Town Council meeting.

“There was no stopping it,” Sincell said “I spoke to the county administrator about it. The fact that it’s U.S. Cellular, I figured they followed all the rules and regs. They’re not a fly-by-night company.”

The mayor said County Administrator Kevin Null told him the county could have issued an injunction to stop the construction, but it would not have “held water.”

“It could have gone to court, but there would have been no basis for an injunction to be successful,” Sincell said.

Town officials discussed the issue during their August meeting and had hoped something could be done to stop construction of the 125- to 150-foot tower. The structure is located on private property near Mountain Lake Park homes along Pensinger Boulevard and a Head Start playground at the former Dennett Road Elementary School.

But because the tower is not located within the Mountain Lake Park boundary, town officials and residents had no say in the matter. The issue falls under the jurisdiction of the county, which has no countywide zoning.

Councilman Patrick Damon asked if the tower is actually completed, noting it didn’t seem very tall and there were no warning lights on top of the structure.

Sincell concurred, noting it does not look 125- to 150-feet tall.

“I’ll have to admit,” he said, “I was envisioning the Eiffel Tower, I think. But it’s still a tower, and it’s there.”

Sincell indicated town officials and residents thought they might have been able to stop construction because of “fall-zone” issues involving Mountain Lake Park properties.

“The industry standard, according to our lawyer, is 1.1 to 1.2 times the height,” the mayor said. “That’s the fall zone.”

He noted Dennett Road School is located just 26 feet from the base of the tower.

“I know some of the residents there are continuing to look into other options,” Sincell said. “But I guess U.S. Cellular thinks they have enough insurance that if the tower falls and kills two or three people at the school, they’ll be able to cover it. I don’t know.”

The mayor indicated the town was looking into strengthening its ordinance in an attempt to better deal with nuisance issues.

“The state code allows municipalities to have an ordinance that, for nuisance situations, you’re protected one-half mile from your border,” Sincell said. “So if someone has a dog barking its head off all night, that’s within in one-half mile of your border, you can take action against that person. But as our ordinance is right now, I don’t think we have anything to cover that. … So the next time someone wants to put a tower up, we might have some teeth to say, ‘No, you can’t do that.’”

That is, he added, the fall risk, lights flashing and other elements can be defined as nuisances.

In other business:

• Councilwoman Pam Nelson was sworn in for another term in office.

• The council unanimously approved the Aug. 31 financial report.

• Sincell reported the state Department of Transportation has not yet provided answers to questions raised during an Oakland bypass meeting that was held in June.

• As requested by the Youghiogheny Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the mayor signed a proclamation acknowledging the 231st anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.

The next Mountain Lake Park Town Council meeting will be held 6 p.m. Oct. 4.


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