Judge Rules In Favor of Tower for the Sake of School Safety

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UPDATE Cambria County (PA) Senior Judge Timothy Creany has denied a land use appeal filed in May by a group of 25 residents who live in a residential zone behind Westmont Hilltop High School, the proposed site for a 195-foot cell tower. In June, Creany denied a motion to quash the appeal from Vogue Towers and the township zoning hearing board, saying residents are, “directly and adversely affected by the board’s decision.” But now, Creany says, “a lack of cellular reception in the area has caused an unnecessary hardship.”

The judge also noted that lack of service near the high school, “impedes the development of safety protocol and endangers the well-being of students, faculty, and staff.” Chief Tim Reitz of the Upper Yoder Township Fire Company considers Westmont Hilltop Junior-Senior High School “a high-risk area” because responders have not been able to communicate with each other from the back to the front of the building on numerous occasions, reported the Tribune-Democrat.

Residents objecting to the tower said it would dominate the neighborhood’s landscape and negatively impact their property values. Others expressed concerns about the potentially harmful health and safety effects from living in proximity to a tower. One resident said, “We’re not against the service, just the location.” 

Robbin Melnyk, director of Cambria County’s 911 center, added that to fund the tower would cost $400,000, which is not financially feasible for the county. However, Vogue has offered to provide Cambria County’s 911 system free space on the tower once erected.

Creany said, in addition to a petition containing more than 1,200 signatures of citizens in favor of the tower, some community members also said the lack of cell coverage deterred some from purchasing homes in an area. Construction of a tower could increase property values.

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August 6, 2019     

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