- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2000

A company ordered by the city to cease building a disputed television tower in Tenleytown will sue the District of Columbia government in Superior Court today, the company’s vice president said.

American Tower Vice President Robert J. Morgan said by stopping the project, Mayor Anthony A. Williams is “pandering to a handful of voters in Ward 3.” The company stopped work yesterday despite its contention that the city unlawfully reneged on the permits after two years of negotiations.

“We’re going to live by the letter of the law,” Mr. Morgan said. “We don’t think the mayor has lived by the letter of the law.”

The city ordered the company to stop working on the structure by yesterday afternoon after admitting last month that permits were not properly granted. Local residents have rallied against the tower for months, citing the lack of a proper environmental impact study by the city.

American Tower has been building the television tower at Wisconsin Avenue and 41st Street near the Tenleytown station since March. Mr. Morgan said the company has spent lots of time and money on the tower and has all the proper permits. The company will name the mayor and the city as defendants in its suit for damages, including work loss and time from potential clients if work stoppage is lengthy. Other agency department heads could be named in the suit, said Robert Clayton Cooper, American Tower’s attorney.

Mr. Morgan said his company has spent about $4 million in construction costs of the projected $6 million to $7 million project. Howard University television and radio along with WDCA-TV already have become clients for the tower, which would bring high definition television to the city according to federal government standards.

The Tenleytown area already hosts towers from Channels Five and Seven, Mr. Morgan said.

“That is referred to as broadcast hill. That is the best place in the District to build the tower,” he said.

“The bottom line is the tower has to be built [somewhere in the city].”

Last Thursday, the city notified American Tower that its permit was rescinded because the permit lacked an environmental impact study and the tower violated the height restrictions. Other reasons include failure to register as a corporation and a zoning violation with the creation of a side yard on the site.

Mr. Cooper argues that the environmental study was not required because there already were three other towers at the current site. He added that the city already owns a taller tower on Georgia Avenue.

About 20 residents members of the Stop the Tower Citizens Coalition last night held a news conference after construction stopped to highlight what they claim were “disingenuous” statements by American Tower.

While residents agreed the District mishandled the permit process, they said the company’s experience should have alerted it to the permit problems.

“They knew, or should have known, the basis for this permit was faulty,” said Damian Didden, a coalition member and a Maryland lawyer. The coalition, which said it represents the interests of hundreds of Tenleytown residents, claims it has collected more than 900 signatures against the tower over a three-day period.

Neighbors also said they were angry over the lack of notification that construction would begin and were especially worried about the dangers of falling ice from the tower and injuring people walking on the sidewalk or parking their cars nearby.

“It is our right and our duty to hold them to account,” said Tim Cooper, a spokesman for the coalition.

“We mean to win and we will.”

• Derek Simmonsen contributed to this report.

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