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Planning board says no to proposed cell tower

SOUTH FORSYTH — The Forsyth County planning board has recommended that Verizon Wireless’ request to build a 160-foot telecommunications tower in south Forsyth be denied.

The tower, which would be constructed as a “monopine” to blend in to natural vegetation by resembling a pine tree, is proposed for the Scott’s Auto Center site at Peachtree Parkway and Majors Road.

Few applications draw votes of denial from the planning board. However, the five-member panel’s decision is only a recommendation to the county commission, which is expected to hear the request in July.

Scott’s Auto Center is zoned as commercial business district, or CBD. And that would not change, as the request is for a conditional use permit to construct the monopole.

The application, filed by Jennifer A. Blackburn, was rejected due to concerns about the distance between the site and nearby homes.

Representatives Robert Hoyt (District 5), Pam Bowman (District 1) and Greg Dolezal (District 3) voted against the measure.

District 4’s Alan Neal voted in favor. Jayne Iglesias of District 2, which encompasses the property, was absent.

According to the county’s unified development code, there must be 500 feet between communication towers and residentially zoned lands. But the application requested a variance to reduce that distance to 286 feet.

Blackburn said that would apply only to a few abandoned structures and that there is 500 feet between the proposed site and inhabited homes.

However, Hoyt noted the commission must consider applications based on potential future use and that those abandoned homes could someday be reoccupied.

“In spite of the … vote, we feel this is a solid site that will provide much needed capacity relief to the surrounding commercial and residential areas, as well as Shiloh Point Elementary, Pinecrest Academy, South Forsyth High School and The Collection at Forsyth,” said Sheryl Sellaway, a spokeswoman for Verizon.

“While we do require a variance to a residentially zoned parcel, that parcel is an undisturbed buffer that can never be developed. This is a predominately commercial area, and all of the adjacent parcels are commercially zoned.”

She said Verizon needs the tower to continue providing reliable wireless service to the area.

A neighbor who spoke in favor of the tower said his son, who attends Shiloh Point, uses mobile devices like an iPad for school work and activities. As it stands, coverage is spotty within school walls.

He said it gets worse during rush hour when cars pile onto nearby Ga. 400.

Scott Muse of Scott’s Auto Center also spoke in favor of the application, noting he gets calls dropped from inside his shop.

While there were those in favor, residents also spoke out against building a tower so close to homes and schools.

One neighbor mentioned he is “not opposed to technology,” just to the location. He noted concerns about property values decreasing because of an eyesore.

Other residents aired health concerns from possible radiation and cancer risks, asking the county to “err on the side of caution. There are seven schools within a mile, and we don’t know the long-term ramifications.”

However, according to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, local jurisdictions cannot consider potential health impacts in deciding the placement of a cell tower.