Proposed cellphone towers again dominated discussion at Friday’s Board of Zoning Appeals meeting.
At December’s meeting, there were six proposed cell tower sites that were deferred. Since that time, two of those were withdrawn. The four that remained were each examined by board members.
Two cell tower sites, one on Guill Road and the other on Stewarts Ferry Pike in Mt. Juliet were each recommended for approval by Planning Office staff. However, Stormwater Director John Dewaal said each of the proposed sites might violate a state regulation regarding stormwater buffer zones.
“The buffer zone may be violated with the disturbed area within the construction site,” Dewaal said.
Frank Romeo of P. Marshall and Associates said, “we can have contractors shift the site to get it out of the buffer zone.”
Both sites were then recommended for approval with the stipulation that they comply with stormwater and groundwater requirements. The board voted to approve the towers based on staff recommendations.
Another proposed tower located off of Thompson Road in the Gladeville area had citizens concerned because there are many aircrafts that fly over the site and there is no requirement for the tower to be lighted.
Kevin Kruger with AT&T said the tower passed an FAA survey and said, “oftentimes one of the things neighbors object to is the light.”
Romeo added “Any cell tower that is built must be approved by the FAA or it cannot be built. One of the questions is are there any flight patterns that would be affected. All pilots were notified of the proposal and no one requested lighting [on the tower].”
Many of the board members questioned the need to even discuss the towers since a state law says that the cellphone companies do not have to justify coverage needs in order to request a tower.
Board member Paul Abercrombie said, “I feel like I’m making a motion with a gun to my head, but I move to approve.”
In 2012, a proposed cell tower in the Possum Town area was denied by the Planning Commission due to a large number of complaints from residents. American Tower, the company requesting the tower, subsequently filed a federal lawsuit and the U.S. District Court in Nashville ruled in favor of American Tower, allowing the cell tower to be built.
County Attorney Mike Jennings spoke to a joint meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals and the Planning Commission regarding that very judgement Friday, asking the members whether or not they wished to appeal the ruling.
“[In the American Towers case,] we got hammered,” said Jennings. The decision I need from you is whether or not to take it to the Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati [Ohio].”
County Commissioner and Possum Town resident Jerry McFarland thanked the board for all of their considerations in the case and said, “I encourage both of these boards to consider changes to the policies.”
County Planner Tom Brashear said, “I do think it’s important to evaluate our policies, but I will state from my research that there is not much else we can do. We cannot discriminate against cell companies due to coverage issues and environmental and health concerns.”
Jennings said “We’d be going [to the appeal] without very much at all. I would not anticipate being very successful.”
Both committees voted in favor of a motion not to appeal the decision based on Jennings’ comments.