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Pilots win fight vs. cell tower

LAWRENCEVILLE - A group of pilots determined to keep a cell phone tower away from their runway said they were "thrilled" Tuesday when T-Mobile's request to build the 126-foot tower was denied.

Between 20 and 25 pilots are based at the Lenora Airport, Mary Jane Kelley Polizzotto said, and despite the fact that Federal Aviation Administration requirements would not have prohibited the tower from being built, she and others said its location in their flight path made it unsafe.

"It's a recipe for possible disaster," she said.

County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau, in denying the request, said T-Mobile failed to present the evidence it needed to to indicate that there was nowhere else the tower could go. The heavily wooded residential area was an inappropriate place for it, he said, when nearby commercial and office districts were better suited.

Michael Sullivan, an attorney representing T-Mobile, said he could not comment on the outcome, including whether a lawsuit would be filed. A court reporter took notes throughout the hearing, during which residents also commented on possible health effects of the tower and the reduction in property values it might cause.

Sullivan called cell phones, and therefore cell phone towers, indispensable, saying they were a necessity for both public safety and local residents who rely on them in lieu of land lines.

"You're planning for a worst-case scenario," Sullivan said. "Your task is not to plan for one in a million. It's to plan for the reasonable, foreseeable future."

Lenora Airport is a 2,600-foot, grass runway that has been in the Centerville area for more than 30 years. The tower was requested less than half a mile away, on Centerville-Rosebud Road.

Polizzotto said she thinks commissioners made the right decision in denying the tower, which she feared could have resulted in a pilot's death.

"It's a critical area of the (flight) pattern," she said. "If they can't see it and they don't know it's there, it only takes one time."