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Cell tower opposed
Neighbors against proposed Hyde Road site
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Forsyth County News

Other business

Also at Thursday night's meeting, the Forsyth County commission:

• Approved changes to the alcohol ordinance to bring sales setback requirements in line with state rules, which are less strict.

• Ratified changes to the Unified Development Code. Changes include: requiring farm wineries to obtain a conditional use permit; lowering from 40 feet to 25 feet the landscape strip on Ga. 400, from Hwy. 369 to the county's northern line; and cleaning up some inconsistencies.

• Decided to put bank service out to bid by a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Jim Harrell and Jim Boff opposed.

The commission had previously decided at a work session to stop using Bank of America and return to Wachovia.

Commissioner Patrick Bell suggested Thursday that they put the services out to bid to get more current information.

Note: All votes were 5-0 unless otherwise noted.

-- Alyssa LaRenzie

Neighboring residents told county commissioners Thursday night that allowing a cell tower on a site in southwest Forsyth would be a bad call.

T-Mobile is seeking a conditional use permit for a 164-foot pole to be constructed on a private, agricultural property on Hyde Road.

The tower, which the commission continues to review, would be able to hold five other cell service providers.

Sarran Marshall, a T-Mobile representative, said the tower is needed to improve "substandard coverage in portions of Forsyth County."

The location the company has targeted is the best possible spot to improve that coverage gap while staying within code requirements, Marshall said.

A cell tower must be at least 500 feet away from the nearest home. In this case, the closest home belongs to Daniel Worster, at 592 feet.

"Would you like to have a tower 500 feet from your house?" he asked commissioners.

Worster was one of several residents of the Tallantworth subdivision that spoke against the tower going up near their homes.

If it is approved, Kara Quincy would also be able to see the tower from her back yard.

She expressed concerns about her property value and the health of her family, since some studies have shown potential dangers of living near cell towers.

Due to health risks, she suggested all towers be required to be 1,500 feet from a the nearest structure.

"I would request that the board support its Forsyth County residents, not T-Mobile," she said.

In making their decision, the commissioners cannot prohibit a cell tower based on some factors including health concerns,
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said, referring Federal Communications Commission law.

They are able to consider factors such as property values, aesthetics and whether the coverage is needed.

In addition, the commission must make a decision within 150 days of the finalized application, which was June 12, in order to avoid automatic approval.

Commissioner Jim Harrell, who represents the residents of District 3, said he would like to take some time to review the coverage complaints in the area and consider the cell company's proposal.

With a potential $300,000 investment by T-Mobile in the tower, he said, it is unlikely they would request the permit unless the coverage need was great.

He also told residents more than 100 cell towers exist countywide under the same criteria that T-Mobile proposed.

"Other folks have had to put up with some problems, some visual or some property-devaluation, in order to create cell phone coverage across the county," Harrell said.

"We're not picking on you, per se, this is what we've done throughout the county."