Telecommuncations committee hears from public on cellphone towers

In the first of five public meetings, Stanly citizens shared their input with government officials concerning the placement and regulation of cellphone towers.

A telecommunications committee is hosting a series of public meetings to review the county’s policies regarding the future construction of cell towers. Members of the committee include Stanly County commissioners Tommy Jordan, Mike Barbee and Scott Efird and Planning and Zoning Committee members Tim Fesperman, Michael Williams and T.J. Smith.

Oakboro’s community building at the park was the site of the first input meeting, where the board presented a pamphlet with proposed changes.

Among the changes was requiring setbacks of the height of the tower plus 25 percent. Since most heights for towers are capped at 200 feet, the proposed new setback would be 250 feet.

The concrete base of a tower would be a minimum of 300 feet from an existing residence, and any tower taller than 100 feet must have the ability to host three or more cell carriers. Towers between 60 and 100 feet would have to carry at least two providers.

One goal of the committee is to set the standards for cell tower construction, so companies who meet all the conditions of the new ordinance will not need a new rezoning requirement for each tower’s construction. Towers could be constructed with a certificate of zoning compliance issued by the county’s planning staff and would eliminate “costly public hearings and burdens on the Planning Board and Commissioners,” the pamphlet read.

According to Stanly Planning Director Bob Remsburg, the Federal Communications Act of 1996 “eliminates a lot of the ability of a local board to regulate and do things that would prevent towers.”

Once citizen spoke about certain towers only carrying one provider per a map sitting on an easel at the meeting. She asked if a tower could be placed next to another one.

Jordan said if towers are close enough to each other, “they can push phone calls to a neighboring tower.” However, he said, if the towers are too far apart, they can’t push the call to another tower.

Jordan warned citizens more towers are coming and “there is no arguing about it. You can’t stop it; we can’t stop it.”

Citizens also asked about redefining residential zones to not be able to include towers unless there are no options available, which Remsburg said would eliminate “90 percent of the county.”

Citizens brought suggestions from other states, which Jordan said was good information.

“I very much appreciate their research and input, because I would have never known about those particular creative ways to do the zoning,” Jordan said.

Other suggestions included increasing the distance from the concrete base and a residence to 600 feet, as well as allowing a tower in a spot if all the adjoining property owners signed something to say they have no objection.

“If we can get one good new piece of information at every meeting,” Jordan added, “that’s five new ideas. That would be awesome.”

The next meeting dates will be Feb. 22 at the Millingport VFD Building, March 8 at the Stanly County Airport, March 22 at the Center Rural Fire Department in Norwood and April 12 at the Gene McIntyre Room of the Stanly County Commons in Albemarle.