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Planning And Zoning Commission Recommends Granting Special Use Permit

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Cross Country Communications owner Danny Weems has requested a special use permit to construct a communications tower up to 180 feet from the ground at 402 Church St.

After discussion Monday evening, Sulphur Springs Planning and Zoning Commission is recommending that the Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals approve Danny Weems’ request for a special use permit.

Weems Monday night told the Planning and Zoning Commission that the tower would allow his business to construct a communications tower to extend up to 180 foot tower. Cross Country Communications provides telephone and Internet services which are broadcast via “line-of-sight” to the businesses other tower, which would allow the business to offer services to additional areas.

The business currently has a tower that extends 120 feet above ground level. It is affixed to the top of the building at 402 Church St. and is supported by guide wires. Allowing the business to have a 180 foot tower would allow the business to put addition equipment on the tower and extend it further into the air, which should allow the service to be available to additional potential customers. The tower on top of the building now would be removed, Springs Community Development Director Tory Niewiadomski and Weems told the three commission members present at their 6 p.m. meeting Monday.

The tower would be very similar to one another property owner has constructed at 100 Craig Street.

Niewiadomski said 17 letters had been sent out regarding the proposal, but had received only one response on Monday from a Mr. Schnell who lives at 416 Church St. who provided four reasons of opposition to the request.

Danny Weems addresses the Planning and Zoning Commission regarding the communications tower he has asked permission to construct at 204 Church St.

Schnell cited the tower’s line-of-sight to the courthouse, providing another tower next to the current one; in and out of compliance for years with no light markings; concern who would be responsible for the tower if the business were to move or go out of business, if it were to decay or fall down, and how that would impact neighbors’ homeowner’s insurance; and radio frequency radiation, Niewiadomski told the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Tommy Harrison asked if there had been any issues with lighting, as indicated in the letter.

Niewiadomski said he was aware of no problems, but referred the question to the applicant.

Weems said the tower was on the building when he purchased it, used by prior Atmos Energy for use for two-way radios.

“There has never been any problem with the tower as far as lighting, no lighting was required. The lighting comes in if you are over 195 feed,” Weems told the council.

Because the tower would be only up to 180 feet, it wouldn’t require any special lighting as the 100 foot tower atop the 20 foot tall building.

Currently, Cross Country Communications has a company that checks on the guide wires on the existing building as a maintenance matter. The new tower would be self-supporting with a foundation according the drawings prepared by an engineer.

“These towers are all over the country. They are very safe the way they are engineered. We shouldn’t have any problems at all. Really, there’s no maintenance to be done,” Weems said.

English asked if the tower would, in his opinion, be safer than the existing tower.

“I don’t want it to sound like my tower isn’t safe. It will hold more equipment,” Weems said, adding that it is “probably safer” due to the age of the existing tower, which professionals have verified is still structurally sound.

Harrison asked if the business were to relocate or no longer operate at the location, what would become of the tower.

Weems he said he expects if the business were moved to a different location and sold the property, the tower would likely remain a fixed asset on the property, unless the new owner did not want it there.

Craig English noted the tower in real estate would be considered the same way a driveway or other similar feature would. It would be up to any future owner whether or not to remove the tower.

Weems said the tower could easily be dismantled with a crane, just as it will be assembled in 20 foot sections after the foundation it’s placed into is set. Most of the work will be in the foundation, with a lot or rebar and concrete, all under the ground and not visible.

Niewiadomski reminded the council of the rule they learned earlier in the year when a request was made for a cell tower. The commission is not allowed to consider the environmental affects of towers when reviewing applications.

Laura Ardis asks questions about and expresses disapproval for
a proposed communications tower to be located next to her residence.

Laura Ardis, who lives next door to the property at 400 Church St., asked why the propsed tower had to be so close to her property instead of in the middle or back corner adjoining a business property.

Weems said the tower’s proposed location because of it’s proximity to the building, as cables will go from the tower into the building to transmit data, and because the other area of the property is a designated parking area.

Ardis called the tower, visible from her back yard a “hideous” sight.

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Mike Horne asked if the tower would be visible from Ardis’ back yard.

Weems said there are trees and vegetation, but a tall, possibly 8 foot tall privacy fence could be installed to hide that much of it from public view. There’ currently a chain-link fence in place.

Ardis asked requirements in city ordinance regarding towers.

Horne noted a special use permit is required to construct a tower, which are approved on a case by case basis. Niewiadomski reported there’s no other specific requirements.

Chris DeLong, who co-owns one multifamily property near the site, asked if there would be any benefits to the residents and community.

Weems said it would make additional internet available to more property owners, residents and businesses at a competitive rate.

Niewiadomski said it is the recommendation of city staff that the request be approved provided two requirements are met. First, city staff would like to there to be a letter from the FAA indicating no hazard will exist from the proposed facility. Also, the applicant would need to comply with all FCC requirements for pre-clearance, which would be provided before the city officially issues the permit.

The Planning and Zoning Commission agreed to recommend the tower request as proposed to the Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals, who will have final say on the request. The matter is among the items listed for ZBA consideration at the board’s next meeting, scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17, at City Hall, 201 North Davis St.

The Planning and Zoning Commission was slated to discuss accessory dwelling units, but opted to table that discussion until a future meeting.

Also, the city will have the task of appointing two members to the commission in the future. Commissioner Kelly Grimes had to resigned previously. Mike Horne has notified the city that he too will soon be moving outside of the city limits and thus ineligible to serve on the committee.

The Downtown Revitalization Board canceled its scheduled meeting Monday night due to lack of quorum.

Planning and Zoning Commission

Author: Faith Huffman

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