Montgomery County Commissioners have approved a conditional use zoning permit that has stirred some controversy in the Eldorado community.
The permit was requested by Horvath Communications of South Bend, Ind., which plans to construct a 250-foot cell phone tower on a 100 square foot parcel on Dark Mountain Springs Trail, leased from property owners Kimberly and Chad Walker of Lexington, N.C.
The County Planning Board considered the matter Oct. 28 and voted to recommend approval of the permit (CU-03-2013).
At their meeting Nov. 19, commissioners heard from Horvath attorney Thomas Terrell, who said the proposed tower site is ideal for providing primary cell phone coverage, and possibly serving as a hub for better service in adjacent areas.
“When you get one tower – an anchor tower, with some height – you then can very quickly put up smaller towers that can pick up those as relay signals from the next,” Terrell explained. “So it would be quicker, cheaper, and easier to put up the next towers, and that network can be built.”
Area residents have raised concern about the impact of tower, including its effect on property values. Appraiser Molly Chisholm of High Point told commissioners that her study of similar situations found no impact.
“There was just no effect of a cell phone tower being in proximity (to) a property,” said Chisholm.
Another topic of discussion was the county’s possible use of the tower as an antenna location for law enforcement and public safety. Horvath Communications has reportedly made available space for such communications equipment, and County Emergency Services Director Corey Roberts told Commissioners the new tower would likely reduce the time currently required to report and respond to an emergency in the Uwharrie area.
Roberts said, “The quicker we can get to them, the quicker we know they’re hurt, the quick we can get them to the hospital… (It) may save someone’s life.”
Among local residents speaking was Reece Untz, who said he wants the tower, but also wanted to remind county staff and commissioners that many people do not want it, and had hired an attorney to represent their interests.
“You got a lot of people here that’s objecting to that tower, and they object enough they done hired a lawyer,” Untz said. “I mean, they don’t want that tower.”
In the end, a motion to approve the permit allowing construction of the tower came from County Commissioner Tripp Myrick, and it passed without opposition.
County Commission Chair Jackie Morris said he hopes the new cell service might also bring more opportunities for internet connectivity to Eldorado area students who have not had it before.