DAVIDSONVILLE, Md. – The Maryland Farm Bureau has agreed to lease space behind their office building at 3358 Davidsonville Road to Network Towers, LLC. Network Towers plans to install a 140 foot tall cell phone tower there. Anne Arundel County approved a Special Exception to zoning law in October 2022 to allow construction to go forward. Many local residents have filed an appeal with the county and are fighting to get the approval overturned.

One such resident, Anne-Marie Novo-Gradac, let us know about an Appeals hearing that is scheduled for March 21-23, 2023.

‘The Federal Communications System provides a nationwide map of mobile broadband coverage.  Their site shows the coverage in the vicinity of the Maryland Farm Bureau site.  It shows that there is ALREADY 100% coverage in the area”, said Anne-Marie.

Anne-Marie says they also formed a Facebook group to help organize people who oppose the tower: https://www.facebook.com/groups/683094800181005

Anne-Marie and her colleagues outlined some reasons the public should know about the construction of this tower:

1—This is at least the third time there has been an effort to install a cell phone tower near the intersection of Central Avenue (MD 214) and Davidsonville Road (MD 424). The previous two efforts were defeated due to the proximity of the tower site to a number of historic properties, including several on the National Register of Historic Places. (Davidsonville Historic District, Mount Airy). AA County also recognizes Union Memorial Methodist Church and Union Memorial Cemetery as historic. That section of Davidsonville Road is designated a Historic and Scenic Road by Anne Arundel County.

2—In 2011 there was an effort by T-Mobile to install a shorter (100’) tower at the same location as the present site. In that case, the Anne Arundel County Cultural Resources Office stated that the 100’ tower would impact the nearby historic sites and recommended against its installation. T-Mobile offered to lower the tower to 85’, but observers from the Cultural Resources Office could still see a balloon lofted to 85’ at the proposed site while viewing from nearby historical properties. Unfortunately, the Cultural Resources Office deemed the current 140’ tower to have no impact on nearby historical properties. We question why they would offer no objections to a 140’ tower in 2022 when they objected to 100’ and 85’ towers in 2011.

3—Neither Network Towers nor Maryland Farm Bureau made any effort to notify the community of their plans. The earliest any local residents learned of the proposed tower was in a letter from Anne Arundel County sent 30 days prior to the hearing notifying the property owners within 300’ of the site. Fewer than 10 households met this criteria, so very few people were made aware of the proposed tower. Although many local residents attended the hearing and gave testimony against the tower, we did not have sufficient time to make an organized effort or hire an attorney.

4—We believe Network Towers has overstated the need/value of adding another cell tower to the Davidsonville area. Several have been built within the last few years. We believe they counted on the county decision makers having limited understanding of radio engineering and have claimed that the tower would enhance emergency communications in the area. As far as we know, Network Towers has never provided any evidence that emergency communications in the relevant area are poor. When we presented FCC maps that showed full coverage in the area and our own radio engineering information at the October hearing, it was discounted.

5—The site is zoned rural and the county’s long term development plan (Plan 2040) clearly states that the Davidsonville area is planned to remain rural. There are also designated greenways passing within mere feet of the proposed site. In spite of the tower site violating several elements of Plan 2040, the Anne Arundel County long term planning office offered no objections to the tower being built.

6–Cell phone companies are in the middle of a major surge in adding capacity/capability to support 5G roll-out. In areas such as Davidsonville, we have good coverage for voice and 4G data. This is sufficient for most uses other than cloud gaming, virtual reality, and live streaming of 4k video. These latter services are expected to provide major revenues to the cell phone companies. They are entertainment products, and do not qualify as “needs”. However, Network Towers convinced decision makers that the added tower was needed.

7—5G does not necessarily require large towers. An alternative technology is available which uses “microcell” antennas that are typically mounted on streetlights. They have minimal visual impact on local communities, but they must be installed more frequently. (More of them, but each one is less obtrusive). The applicant seeking to install the cell tower is a company who builds towers and then rents space to cell phone carriers. It is not in their interest to admit that there is an alternative to their solution.

8—By federal law, once the 140’ tower is installed, the tower owner may increase the height by as much as 20’ with no further approvals required. It is possible that the 140’ tower will become 160’.

To view the original application by Network Towers and all exhibits submitted by protestants, you can visit the Anne Arundel County Administrative Hearings website: www.aacounty.org/departments/admin-hearings/admin-hearings-schedule/event/10/18/2022/network-towers-llc-2022-0128-s-ad-1-cd-7

A hearing was held in October in which the court ruled that “the applicant is hereby granted a special exception to allow a commercial telecommunications facility permanently located on the ground in an RA – Rural Agricultural District on property located at of 3358 Davidsonville Road, Davidsonville, MD 20135 as show in Count Exhibit 2.”

The decision document for the October hearing can be viewed at: drive.google.com/file/d/1JfSHaMLgqq7oW-j-MX_0UzyrySijM8Z8/view

There is still an upcoming appeal to this ruling. The hearing schedule can be viewed at: www.aacounty.org/boards-and-commissions/board-of-appeals/board-of-appeals-calendar/bymonth/list/3/1/2023

Anne-Marie says they have been completely unable to meet with anyone from the Anne Arundel County Office of Planning and Zoning. 

“We especially tried to meet with Jane Cox, who is the administrator for the Cultural Resources Section.  She is one of the two county officials who observed the balloon test in 2011.  At that time she decided that a 100′ tower at the exact same location as the present tower would be too intrusive on the Historic District and recommended against the 100′ tower being approved.  The applicant (T-Mobile) withdrew their application in 2011 when they learned of that recommendation.  We wanted to find out why Jane Cox has changed her position between 2011 and 2022, and hoped that she would re-assess the current application.”

Anne-Marie said that “In support of our appeal, we will be conducting our own visual impact study so that we can present views during minimal foliage cover and different locations.  We invited Jane Cox to attend and view it, but she has declined.” 

Anne-Marie explained that although the upcoming hearing is a ” de novo” hearing, meaning the Board of Appeals considers the matter completely new, it seems that officials are unwilling to look at new information such as their prospective visual impact study.

Contact our news desk at news@thebaynet.com 

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  1. There is a huge dead spot where riva hits 214. Service from that intersection all the way to harwood is spotty! It takes forever for my gps to load directions. I saw the renderings on this groups Facebook page it doesn’t look bad at all. It blends in with the lights from that little field by the farm bureau!

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