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Stanly commissioners send cell tower request back to planning board

A proposed cellphone tower in the Frog Pond area met significant opposition from residents at Monday’s meeting of the Stanly County Board of Commissioners.

In a public hearing, several members of the community surrounding 16271 McLester Road voiced opposition to a proposed outlay district for the tower.

Before the hearing, Commissioner Zach Almond asked to be recused from the vote on the district. The motion to recuse Almond passed 5-1, with Commissioner Peter Asciutto voting against it.

Stanly County Planning Director Bob Remsburg said the outlay district was initially voted against by the planning board, 4-3. However, after Cellco Partnership and Verizon submitted additional information, the planning staff recommended approval of the request.

Asciutto made a motion before the public hearing was closed to keep the hearing open until the May 17 meeting. The motion included remanding the application back to the county’s planning board for further review. Asciutto said in his motion that new information from Cellco and those in opposition will be submitted to the planning board.

The motion passed 4-2, with Commissioners Lane Furr, Scott Efird, Asciutto and Vice Chairman Tommy Jordan voting in favor.

Asciutto said he normally supports the decisions boards recommend to the commissioners. He noted the planning board’s 4-3 vote against the district, but the board had questions for Verizon.

“I felt it was only fair to go back to the (planning) board with that information,” Asciutto said.

Dissenting votes on Asciutto’s motion came from Chairman Bill Lawhon and Commissioner Mike Barbee. In his board comments, Barbee said, “I’m sure for Cellco this is not their first rodeo. They should have been prepared with their answers. I think it’s just prolonging things to go back to the planning board. It passed, so we will see what the results will be later.”

After the meeting, Lawhon said he voted against the motion “because the ultimate decision is coming back to the (Board of Commissioners), and I just didn’t feel like we needed to prolong it. We needed to act on it because we had the information.”

In the public hearing, Charlie Hinson, the property owner for the proposed tower location, said he had been contacted a year ago by Verizon regarding it.

“If I thought for a minute (the tower) was a high risk, I would not let it be built on our property,” Hinson said. “If the tables were turned, and those opposed were prohibited from using their land for the purpose they wanted, I wonder how they would feel and what their reaction would be. I should be allowed to use it as I see fit.”

Victoria Farmer, a Verizon representative, said the area had a “significant need” to improve the coverage, with “dropped calls” along the area of N.C. Highway 24-27. The McLester Road location is less than one mile from the four-lane highway.

Chris Duggan, speaking in opposition, asked the citizens in attendance how many were against the new tower. The majority raised their hands, while two people — the landowners — raised their hands to support it.

Concerns expressed by the opposition included aesthetics of the tower and lowering of property values of neighboring tracts of land. One person displayed a list of 110 signatures of residents against the tower’s construction.

Mason Hinson said the generators used by the cell tower would generate noise. He did not know of any lack of cell coverage in the area.

The planning board will meet May 10 before the Board of Commissioners meeting May 17.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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