County ap­proves cell tower, with a twist

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - ROB DEWIG rdewig@cov­news.com

It’s com­mon to­day for new cell tow­ers to pop up all over. The city of Cov­ing­ton re­cently fought and lost a frus­trat­ing bat­tle to keep one from a res­i­den­tial area.

Tues­day night, the New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers voted to ap­prove an un­usual tower at 10816 Old At­lanta High­way, with a vari­ance that al­lows it to be built much closer to three sur­round­ing homes than county reg­u­la­tions nor­mally al­low.

The tower, to be built by 52Eighty LLC, will serve as a “mi­crowave back­haul,” which will pro­vide LTE ser­vice to about 40 “or­phan” area tow­ers with­out ac­cess, a spokesman for the com­pany told the com­mis­sion. The lo­ca­tion was cho­sen be­cause of its prox­im­ity to an ex­ist­ing fiber cen­ter owned by Level 3 Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, which pulls in­for­ma­tion from a fiber line near the rail­road.

The tower will be 150 feet tall. Zon­ing Ad­min­is­tra­tor Judy John­ston said county

reg­u­la­tions for Res­i­den­tial 2 zon­ing (R2) call for a tower to be at least three times its height from the near­est res­i­dences – in this case, 450 feet.

But this one will fall (although hope­fully not) well within that limit of three homes. John­son said one is just 89.5 feet away, one is 300 feet, and the third is 400 feet.

The tower was ap­proved by the county’s Board of Zon­ing Ap­peals, the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion and the county’s paid cell tower con­sul­tant none­the­less, and was brought to the County Com­mis­sion for fi­nal ap­proval.

Com­mis­sioner Nancy Schulz ques­tioned the health im­pact of a tower so close to homes. How­ever, the fed­eral Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Act of 1996 pro­hibits lo­cal gov­ern­ments from mak­ing de­ci­sions based on per­ceived pub­lic safety. The is­sue was dropped.

The area the tower is to be built is zoned R2 now, but is zoned on fu­ture-use maps as in­dus­trial.

The com­pany’s in­volved in the tower’s con­struc­tion have worked with the three neigh­bor­ing res­i­dents, but no one said what types of ac­com­mo­da­tions, fi­nan­cial or oth­er­wise, have been worked out.

No time­line for the tower’s con­struc­tion has been set.

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