Planning commissioners in Talbot County, Maryland, thought their work was done after two years of developing a new wireless ordinance. Then Van Thompson came along with a request to build a concealed tower.
The owner of TARA Communications has been working on two sites in the county for almost three years, one of which is on Tilghman Island, a tourist town on the Chesapeake Bay. Thompson proposed two different locations for a monopole tower, but both received withering opposition.
When Thompson, working with a local church as a landlord, proposed a belltower façade, it caused a new problem.
According to the new ordinance, towers are restricted to preferred areas, must be monopoles, may not be within 500 feet of a park or a school and may not be more than 100 feet in height. But it doesn’t mention any rules concerning concealed towers.
Thompson said it is very unusual to need a wireless ordinance change to accommodate a concealed tower. “In the more than 20 the years I have been doing this, there has always been something in the zoning ordinance that would allow a concealed tower,” Thompson said. “This one wouldn’t. It is so tight and they have so much control over every little detail, there was no way we could do it without making some changes.”
After coming up with the idea of a concealed tower, Thompson took the idea to the county planners and showed them pictures of his previous work hiding towers.
“[The planners] absolutely loved it,” Thompson said. “We had community meetings and 175 out of 185 people supported it.”
While the county fully supports the proposed concealed tower, it now must amend its newly minted zoning ordinance to allow it. It is also looking at loosening setback restrictions to facilitate the facility. Thompson, who has chosen cooperation over confrontation, is working with the planners in crafting the rule changes.
“I have a work session with the planning council,” he said. “It is very unusual for them to invite an outsider to one of those meetings, but they want to see it and understand everything about [the concealed tower].”