Planning commission turns down tower

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By John Barnhart

    The Bedford County Planning Commission unanimously turned down, Monday night, a request from AT&T to build a 160-foot cell tower on a property on Perrowville Road.

    The proposed location is in a wooded area at the rear of a commercial site, but there is dense residential development nearby. The people living in these adjoining neighborhoods spoke out against the proposal at a public hearing.
    “We are not very excited about opening our front door every morning and seeing a 160-foot monstrosity,” said Robert Russell, the president of the property owner’s association in a neighborhood close to the proposed cell tower.
    Russell said that, back in 2000, the planning commission voted unanimously against a similar tower proposed by nTelos at the same site.
    “This is where I live, this is where my children live,” said Stephen Younghouse, who said that the tower would be less than 500 feet from his backyard.
    “I have Verizon Wireless and I have no problem with my cell phone in and around my neighborhood,” commented Christy Stanley.
    Others noted that the tower’s height was double the guideline in the cell tower ordinance and questioned the wisdom of relaxing the ordinance’s requirements. There was also a concern that the tower would have red flashing aircraft warning lights.
    “Yes, you can see it,” said Mike Pace, the attorney representing AT&T.
    Pace, however, argued that existing tree cover would obscure the tower and backed his argument with photo simulations of a tower as seen from various spots. He said that the tower wouldn’t loom over the viewshed and that it wouldn’t have any lights on it.
    He pointed out that Verizon was recently granted permission to build a 123-foot tower.
    “We are asking for something similar,” he said.    
    And, speaking of Verizon, Pace said that AT&T has a right to provide cell phone coverage to compete with Verizon.
    As the planning commission discussed the application, District 3 Planning Commissioner Steve Wilkerson said that people don’t complain about short cell towers, they complain about tall ones. He said that the proposed Perrowville Road location is not the appropriate spot for a tall tower. He noted the predominantly residential character of that area.    
    District 4 Planning Commissioner Frederic Fralick echoed that argument.
    “I can’t buy into that tower in that neighborhood,” he said.
    District 5 Planning Commissioner Steve Stevick noted that the tower’s height is far outside the parameters that they work with.
    In other action the planning commission gave a 6-1 thumbs up to a proposal to add seven amusement rides at the Mayberry Drive-In Theatre and Diner. The rides will be located at the rear of the diner and will operate from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The special use permit also will allow occasional outdoor music in front of the diner.
    George Aznavorian owns the property and leases it to Robert Craig, who owns the diner and drive-in. Aznavorian said that this will provide additional revenue from an off-peak time of day. The theater only operates in the evening and the theater’s parking will serve as parking for the amusement rides.
    “What we are trying to do is add more family entertainment to the area,” commented Craig.
    Craig said that he does not sell alcoholic beverages. He said there have never been any problems during his three years of operation.
    The special use permit was recommended for approval with Fralick casting the lone dissenting vote.
    All planning commission votes are recommendations only. Actual approval rests with the board of supervisors.