Planning Board approves construction of three cell towers

Wil Petty

April 7, 2014

The Ashe County Planning Board approved three new cell phone towers to be placed throughout the county during its scheduled meeting on Thursday, April 3.

AT&T is building the new towers and was represented by David Pokela, of the Greensboro-based company Nexsen-Pruet, on behalf of American Towers, based in Boston.

“Part of this overall process is to find places throughout North Carolina with white space (dead zones),” Pokela said. “Throughout Ashe County, we are placing (the towers) where there’s a demonstrated need.”

Wild Kono communication tower will be located near N.C. 16 South and its intersection with Frank Dillard Road in West Jefferson. Liberty Grove communication tower will be located near U.S. 221 South and Railroad Grade Road and the Moonbow communication tower will be located near U.S. 221 north and Alaphair Lane near Crumpler.

“We are starting to put together these puzzle pieces to better serve Ashe County,” Pokela said.

Two of the towers sit within 500 feet of structures, but since they are owned by the person who approved having the towers on the property, there was no need for signed easements or additional paperwork. Prior to bringing the applications to the planning board, Pokela said the engineers did receive approval from the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is required if the towers are within a four-mile radius of the road.

Planning Director Adam Stumb said the applications for the towers met the requirements without any issue.

All three towers meet the requirements of Ashe County ordinances related to the construction of cell phone towers and are all 195 feet.

While the planning board approved the construction of the towers, members asked about the future of the cell towers throughout the county’s landscape.

“At what point are you saturated in an area,” member Arvil Scott asked. “I know we don’t have (that problem) here, but in other parts of the state, what do you use for saturation levels?”

Pokela said the towers are placed only where the companies believe there is a need for them, and that few additional tower applications are being filed in the future.

“There will be a sufficient number of towers in certain areas,” Pokela said. “AT&T has found there are not enough towers in the state.”

Pokela said in neighboring counties, the towers are being approved for construction along major highways. For example, in Alleghany County, the towers are providing service on the U.S. 21 and U.S. 221 corridors.

Stumb also said AT&T is not coming in solely to create new towers, but the planning board has to approve whether new towers are constructed.

“You all have seen these applications,” Stumb said. “The other part you haven’t seen is that AT&T is co-locating with several of the existing towers in the county.”

The towers AT&T received approval for allow for three additional services to co-locate with AT&T. Per county ordinance, each tower has to allow at least two co-locations before being approved for construction.

The next meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 24. While it would be regularly scheduled for Thursday, April 17, the board moved the date due to its proximity to the Easter weekend.

Due to only three of the board’s five members being present, and no additional public, the Planning Board voted to move their discussion of employment to the next meeting in hopes of having additional input. The focus will be on the agriculture, industrial and tourism sectors of employment.

Also scheduled for the April 24 meeting is a discussion on infrastructure and transportation in the county.

Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.