A long-simmering feud between an Arlington-based public broadcasting station and the adjacent neighborhood erupted again last week when the neighbors complained to the County Board about an extension of the station's radio tower and the addition of microwave dishes.
Because of an oversight by the county, the Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association (WETA) extended the antenna on its FM radio tower at 5217 N. 19th Rd. to 496 feet. This is 21 feet higher than allowed under the height restrictions imposed in the tower's use permit.
The nonprofit WETA, which operates both FM-91 radio and Channel 26-TV, decided to seek an amendment to the tower's permit rather than spend the $50,000 that it would cost to dismantle the extension, which is providing the station with a stronger radio signal.
In addition to the funds that WETA has expended, GTE-Sprint, the mass telecommunications firm, spent $250,000 to strengthen the tower, on which it has placed five microwave relay dishes for its long-distance telephone system, said Edmund D. Campbell, the station's attorney.
But North Arlington neighbors of the tower, testifying before the County Board on the tower permit, seized the opportunity to protest GTE's dishes and other problems they said they have encountered with the station over the years.
Several residents said that they were concerned about possible health complications for neighbors and patients at nearby Arlington Hospital as a result of exposure to microwaves from GTE's dishes, which were attached to the tower earlier this year.
Neighbors also complained about noise, trash and parking problems that they said the station and its employes generated.
The County Board received reports, including one from GTE, stating that the microwave emissions posed minimal risks, but the board called for further investigation.
Board members deferred action until Oct. 5 on the tower's permit, after asking that the station and its neighbors attempt to resolve their difficulties.