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Commissioners vote on cell tower moratorium

By Kimberly Jordan kjordan@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:40 PM

Wilson County Commissioners took a step toward better understanding of cell tower locations with the approval of a resolution at the Monday meeting.

Commissioner Clint Thomas proposed a resolution at the May meeting which would put a moratorium on new cell tower applications. It was deferred to the Planning and Zoning Committee at that time.

When the measure was reintroduced Monday, there were some questions.

"We had a Planning and Zoning meeting but not enough people showed up to conduct business. We did talk to [County Planner] Tom Brashear, and there's some things we've asked Tom to do for this and I was hoping the Planning and Zoning Committee could address those issues before voting on this," said Commissioner Wendell Marlowe.

Thomas said he wanted to amend the resolution so that the moratorium would be a period "up to 365 days" and that the moratorium "does not apply if the tower is 1,500 feet or more from a residential area or school."

Commissioner Jeff Joines spoke in favor of the measure saying that Thomas had "worked hard on it."

"What this resolution does, it does give us a zone around a residential area that we can have time to bring in the experts so that we can better serve folks in the neighborhoods," Joines said. "It's our charge as the county commission to make sure that a cell phone tower going up in somebody's back yard, we know what we're talking about."

Commissioner Dan Walker said, "I don't think any of us are experts in the room about cell towers.

"There's so many local businesses, all the students, parents trying to communicate with their children before and after school. Communication is paramount right now."

To summarize his intentions for the resolution, Thomas told the commission that the resolution "came from sitting in BOZA meetings and seeing frustration, not only on the citizens faces but also on the faces of the BOZA and Planning Commission members.

"This is such a massive and complex issue that the whole point is to afford us the opportunity to do this research."

The measure ultimately passed unanimously.

Prior to the commission's regular business, a special presentation was made to honor Interim Director of Schools Mary Ann Sparks.

Mayor Randall Hutto stepped in front of the commission on behalf of the members of the Education Committee to present Sparks with a plaque thanking her for her service.

"We had a situation happen that was out of our control with our last director," said Hutoo. "Mrs. Mary Ann stepped in in a situation I thought that could have gone any way, could have gotten out of control. She grabbed the bull by the horns and lead us, and I'm very appreciative of her."

Sparks told the commissioners that she "was very rarely speechless," but that she "was at a loss for words" on receiving the honor.

"Thank you very much, this is very touching," she said.

Also approved at the meeting was a resolution to move $45,000 from a Build America Bond for Lebanon High School into a school system fund to help with improvements at the LHS football field.

Commissioner Mike Justice said the funds in that bond "can only be spent on high school projects. That will take care of the football field."

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