Cell tower vote taken off agenda in Montgomery Co.

WASHINGTON — A vote that would have changed Montgomery County’s residential landscape and allowed more cell towers 30 feet from homes has been scuttled — for now.

The zoning text amendment, which had been the subject of intense lobbying for nearly two years, was taken off the agenda for Tuesday’s county council meeting.

Council President Hans Riemer said in a statement that the bill would have allowed for “robust” wireless service while allowing the county to regulate how cell towers and antennae would be placed.

A recent amendment was added to the bill that would have called for a setback of 60 feet rather than 30, and would have required a hearing process for any new replacement towers. That amendment, authored by council member Tom Hucker, was passed on a 6-to-3 vote last week.

In an email to constituents, council member George Leventhal wrote that the amendment “is quite controversial and does not have the support of a majority of council members.”

County Executive Ike Leggett said in a statement that he is disappointed that the proposal was not going forward and attributed its withdrawal to a series of “unacceptable amendments … that would make the bill too costly, too time-consuming and too confusing.”

The decision to take the bill off the agenda means the current council cannot take up the issue. It will have to wait until after the Nov. 6 elections. Four of the nine council members are running for re-election.

Opponents of the bill celebrated its removal from the agenda. County resident Megan Montgomery wrote an email saying she was “beyond thrilled” that the council pulled the bill from consideration, and even offered to put up campaign signs in her yard for council members who “stood with the voters on this vital issue of property rights in Montgomery County.”

In hearings on the topic, many opponents packed meetings urging council members to vote against it, while some residents who supported the bill said they looked forward to having better wireless service in their neighborhoods.

WTOP’s Abigail Constantino contributed to this report.

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