(pictured above: Luis Sanchez, a resident who lives near the Bethel United site, points to the area where the cell phone tower will be erected.)
Residents will begin to see more cell phone towers in residential areas.
The Winston-Salem City Council voted Monday 6-2 to approve a special use permit for the erection of a tower on the land near Bethel United Methodist Church, off Burke Mill Road. Council members also unanimously approved another tower at Edgewood Baptist Church area near Reidsville Road. Both towers will be constructed by American Tower Company, which builds towers used by large corporations like AT&T.
The Bethel United tower will sit on 4.89-acres of undeveloped property and would be one of the first placed in a residential neighborhood under a new city ordinance. The Edgewood Baptist Church tower will sit on 6.23-acres of developed land, near two single-family homes, one of which is currently unoccupied.
Council members James Taylor Jr. and Derwin L. Montgomery opposed the Bethel United measure, which had been tabled more than a month ago after residents voiced concerns about the towers.
Taylor said that he voted against the ordinance because the number of residents who showed up at recent public hearings to voice their opposition to the ordinance outnumbered those who supported it.
“I cut my teeth in the community on speaking up for the people. If there is an overwhelming number of people who come to the City Council and say ‘We do not want this in our community,’ I just cannot, in good consciousness, vote for it,” Taylor said. “I am still determining what case law says, and until I can get it all figured out, I am going to speak for the people. That is the just the bottom-line for me.”
Montgomery said he too voted nay because he did not feel that residents’ opinions and concerns were taken into consideration.
“You had citizens who were against it altogether and then you had citizens who were willing to compromise. In my opinion, they were not taken into consideration,” Montgomery. “The neighbors who live in the area have a say so in that. We have to find better ways to give those neighbors a say so in that decision.”
Ginger Matthews is among the residents with concerns about the tower. She thinks it will be a neighborhood eyesore, even though plans are to design it to mirror a large pine tree.
“The monopine (tower) is unnatural and brings attention to the tower,” she said. “I believe the American Towers’ appraiser did not provide enough information to conclude that the proposed tower will not decrease property values because he did not provide any information on comparable sales.”
Council member Dan Besse said at the meeting that he takes seriously the concerns of those residents but believes the tower poses no danger to residents or harm to communities.
“I don’t think there is evidence to support substantial concerns of the wind blowing (the tower) over or something happening to it,” Besse said.
Both tower building permits were approved by the city’s Planning Board after the City Council amended the Unified Development Ordinances in February to allow towers to be erected in residential communities. The Council will still approve individual sites and plans as they are proposed. Under the plan approved, towers will not be approved that would significantly adversely affect property values.
Companies wanting to build towers are also required to notify, by way of letters, all residents and neighborhood organizations within 500 feet of the proposed site. Community meetings will also be held before the Council votes on individual tower sites.