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Gaston County, N.C., OKs Disputed Cell Installation

Despite public calls to disallow the 200-foot Verizon cell tower in the rural area, county officials determined the project would have no negative impacts on the surrounding environment or its residents.

(TNS) — A roomful of concerned residents didn’t dissuade a county panel from approving a permit for construction of a new cell tower in the shadow of Crowders Mountain.

The Gaston County Board of Adjustment on Thursday determined that Verizon’s plan to build a nearly 200-foot-tall telecommunications pillar at 454 Freedom Mill Road is reasonable and legitimate. The board approved a conditional use permit after ruling favorably for the company on four "findings of fact." It essentially determined that the new tower will not have any negative effects on surrounding landowners by endangering public safety, damaging property values or the like.

Sixteen residents who live nearby the proposed project signed up to speak during the quasi-judicial hearing. A number of other onlookers came to listen and helped to fill the assembly room at the Gaston County Administration Building.

“It was a lively meeting,” said Laura Hamilton, a land use officer with the Gaston County Planning Department.

Verizon plans to lease land along the Freedom Mill site from the property owner, Gary Douglas Hicks, who bought the 11-acre tract there in July 2014 for $220,000. Verizon also gained approval from the Board of Adjustment in December to build a nearly identical cell tower at 2198 County Line Road near Cherryville.

The company will also be required to allow three other cell carriers to install their own antennas on the tower. That’s in line with a local requirement aimed at cutting down on the number of cell towers across the landscape, Hamilton said.

Residents who questioned and spoke out against the project generally voiced concerns about the health effects of being so close to cellular transmissions and magnetic waves. Others said they felt the tower would hurt their property values, Hamilton said.

“There were a few concerns along the lines of ‘I moved to the country because l don‘t want any city-type things around,’” she said.

Verizon has not offered a timetable for when it might begin construction on either of the two towers. The company has submitted site plans in conjunction with receiving the conditional use permits.

“With the CUP passing, we’ll now be able to finish the site review and issue a zoning permit whenever they’re ready to get it,” said Hamilton.

The company will have up to two years to apply for its building permits at the sites.

Gaston County requires such towers to have a "collapse area" built into the design, ensuring that it will not topple over at 100 percent of its height, Hamilton said. It guarantees that the tower would instead collapse onto itself.

©2018 Gaston Gazette, Gastonia, N.C. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.