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My Turn: As tower looms, don't lose sight of property rights

By Bruce La Rue
Once again, the Mt. Ulla broadcast tower controversy has reared its ugly spire. On the surface, it appears to be a simple case of the preservationists versus the evil, greedy broadcasting mogul, with property owners in the middle. I believe there is something much more critical at stake than simply keeping our skies free from this allegedly dangerous eyesore.
It is easy to take the side against a tall tower. No one except Gig Hilton — who apparently graduated from the Joe Biden School of public speaking — actually likes towers. I have to believe that even the property owners are not all that giddy about the prospect of a giant radio tower rising up from their little piece of God’s country that is Mt. Ulla. Statistically, if not literally, nobody who lives in this part of the world wants to see the tower.
Personally, I dread the specter of a tall tower piercing the sky about a mile to the west of our humble abode. I dearly love sunsets, one of God’s most beautiful and irreproducible works of art placed on display for an unworthy audience on a regular basis. I also marvel at moonsets and the occasional appearances of Mars and Venus, but they will not be the same with the distraction of blinking red lights. The tower may not be directly in the line of sight of my beloved sunsets. I am guessing that it likely will loom off to the left a bit. The point is, I will have to deal with this metal monstrosity for my remaining days, as will my neighbors.
Yet, as much as I detest the idea of a tall tower in our bucolic little township, I am more concerned about the continued assault on individual property rights. Over the years we have heard horror stories about abuses of eminent domain, as well as property owners denied the opportunity to earn an honest living from their own land, often by environmentalists who are able to convince regulatory agencies and judges that the well-being of some jumping rat is more important than the right of an individual to farm his own soil.
In the case of the Mt. Ulla tower, mostly well-meaning preservationists are battling to preserve our pristine skies. One problem with this noble quest is that the area is riddled with towers of various heights. There is a tall tower north of Cleveland, and another off Patterson road between Millbridge and Landis. As for the eyesore argument, one could offer tours of quaint, rustic eyesores throughout the township. If they are old enough, some eyesores may even fall under the scrutiny of the preservationists.
So let it be with the tower. They have loosed the straw dogs on Hilton and the Parkers, owners of the property where the tower would stand. The arguments concerning danger to airplanes and damage to the appearance of the Mt. Ulla skyline are mostly pretext. I suspect something else is at play. Something political this way comes. Pilots have to adapt to changing conditions, just as we townspeople can adapt to a sky interrupted.
We should not adapt to a clear infringement of the Parkers’ property rights. We do not live in a gated community with codes and covenants enforced by a well-meaning tribunal which calls itself the homeowners association. We live in the country. That’s where they put towers.
A family has an opportunity for a monthly income that would come from a private sector enterprise, not from fellow taxpayers. Had I been offered such a deal, one which would help provide financial security for my family in perpetuity, I would have jumped at the chance.
I will miss my unobstructed sunsets. I dread the tower, but it’s not about me. It’s not about pilots or preservationists. It is about the sort of individual property rights for which the early American patriots fought and died. It is part of that whole freedom and liberty thing, for which many courageous Americans have fought and died. Let us not let the sun go down on our property rights.
• Bruce La Rue lives in Mt. Ulla

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