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Possumtown residents continue fight to stop cell tower
Jul 24, 2012 12:00 am
A citizens group in Possumtown is still putting up a fight to prevent a cell tower from being erected on Trice Road.
Members of that group came out for the Friday morning meeting of the Wilson County Planning Commission to voice their opposition.
Attorney's for the project, set to be constructed by American Tower Corporation for AT&T, had the item placed on the commission agenda to request approval for a utility lot on the Ned Littel property. Wilson County Planning Director Tom Brashear recommend the commission deny the request, without prejudice.
County Commissioner Jerry McFarland, who represents the residents of Possumtown, addressed the planning commission and voiced his opposition to the project. He said he had spoken "in depth" with Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto about the planned cell tower and had determined that there are already 52 cell towers in Wilson County, more than enough to ensure cell coverage. He also noted that he and Hutto had discussed the possible health ramifications of having a cell tower so close to students at nearby Friendship Christian School.
"Other towers are more than a mile from any school," McFarland said, adding he didn't feel comfortable with a tower "2,300 feet from the front door of a school, 1,400 feet from the back door and close to athletic fields." He also noted that there is litigation pending in the federal court system with the lawyers for the cell tower suing local commissions for not approving the plan immediately.
"I'm here to ask you to deny this until the litigation can be resolved," he told the commission.
When the commission voted, Brashear told them he had to recommend the request be denied, because there was no approved utility use for the lot in question. He added that he expected attorneys for the cell tower project would resubmit the request.
Wilson Emergency Management Director John Jewell, who sits on the commission and was acting chairman for the meeting, noted, "this body is not in a position to approve" given the lack of approved utility use for the lot. With that the commission denied the request.
Friendship Acres resident Allen Barry, who is one of the local residents leading the effort to get the cell tower stopped, said this is just another battle in what is shaping up to be a long war. He plans to fight the cell tower every step of the way, expressing concerns about the numerous studies in the United States and Europe that indicate that these towers cause health concerns for people who live and work near them. He also fears the lower property values the tower would cause, not to mention the loss of the rural beauty of the community - one of the main reasons many people live in the area.
Friendship Christian School Director Jon Shoulders also attended the meeting to show his support for the group that is fighting against the cell tower. He noted that when parents come to look at the school, one of its biggest selling points is the beautiful country scenery that surrounds the campus.
"They see Jerry's farm and see the cows," he said. "Sometimes we take our seniors to his farm for hayrides so they can witness the beauty of the creation."
For some reason, he doesn't think a huge, ugly cell tower literally towering over the pristine landscape jibes with that picture.
McFarland noted that Hutto is looking at research done by the citizens group into ordinances used in other places to stop cell towers from locating too close to residential areas or near schools.
"The mayor will direct the planning office to create one to fit Wilson County and I'll put it before the County Commission," he said.
Barry knows the group is in for a long fight against the big pockets and expensive lawyers of the cell tower group, but he and his neighbors are ready to play David to their Goliath. He said that numerous politicians at the state level have expressed cautious support for the group, but essentially it's their fight to win or lose.
Another member of the group, Tina Bentley, added that their local representatives, McFarland and planning commissioners, have been very good at joining in the cause.
"Our people have listened to us and are helping us," she said. "We appreciate that."
She also reiterated the group's fear that the tower will endanger the health of residents, especially neighborhood children and FCS students.
"We're not willing to take that chance," she concluded.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 444-3952, ext. 45 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
jerry Photo: Mary E. Hinds
Wilson County Commissioner Jerry McFarland address the Wilson County Planning Commission on Friday morning urging them to deny a request for a utility lot on the Ned Littel property in Possumtown, which would be used for the construction of a cell tower. The tower strongly opposed by many residents.