Tensions were high at the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners’ meeting Monday night during a hearing regarding a zoning request for American Tower Corp. The company hopes to erect a 195-foot wireless telecommunications tower on Buffalo Shoals Road in the Ironton Township.
American Tower attorney Pat Sarsfield explained that public safety would be served by the increased signal strength of AT&T in the area.
Family members Whitney, Michael and Wendy Southers spoke against the erection of the cell tower, which would neighbor their backyard.
“I’ve lived there for 26 years,” Wendy Southers said. “That tower’s going to be 300 feet from my backyard, and I don’t want it there.”
In addition to the tower’s close proximity to the Southers’ property, the family is also concerned about the amount diesel fuel the tower would hold.
“It’s concerning that the tower’s diesel fuel could leak and contaminate our water,” Whitney Southers said.
Michael Southers then provided appraisal packets for the commissioners, stating that the plans for the tower had already decreased his property value by $20,000. However, County Attorney Wesley Deaton told commissioners they could not accept the document since the appraiser was not present to be cross-examined.
However, not all neighboring residents are against the construction of the tower.
Caleb Shrum spoke on behalf of his grandmother Nanette Shrum, who owns the property, to approve the tower’s construction.
“Money from the tower will pay for her extensive medical bills and improvements around the house,” Caleb Shrum said.
The Planning Board voted 6-0 to recommend approval with the condition that “a landscaped vegetative buffer shall be provided around the perimeter of the wireless communications facility to effectively screen the view of the equipment compound from surrounding perspectives.” The buffer would consist of shrubbery and natives trees that will grow at least 10 feet tall when matured.
The public hearing had first been opened in October, but had been postponed twice.
The Planning Board also voted to recommend approval to amend two sections of the Lincoln County Unified Development Ordinance with the revision that all antenna support structures should be enclosed by security fencing at least eight feet in height. Proposed by applicant Sean Hughes, the amendments would make a telecommunications tower that is 101-325 feet in height a conditional use in the R-S and R-SF districts, and screening and fencing would be required for equipment compounds for telecommunication towers.
The Board of Commissioners has rescheduled their next meeting for 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 13 at the Citizens Center.