An amendment to the current ordinance concerning cell towers drew a number of people to the podium at last week’s commission meeting.
Under the current ordinance applicants have had two choices: to place a cell tower on public owned land providing it has the space or ask for a variance.
The proposed ordinance amendment would change setbacks and that variances to certain requirements of the code now be included as part of the regulations.
One issue was the current setback based on fall zone. During the discussion it was mentioned that the 250-foot requirement based on tower height could change because towers are now built to not fall over but collapse downward.
Resident Michael Dorian said his concern was about having a 250-foot cell tower only 150 feet from his home.
He added that everyone who is affected by the building of a cell tower should be allowed an opportunity to speak for or against the issue.
Dorian wanted the amendment voted down.
A cell tower request for the Peavy property north of Havana, where a deviation was required and public input was taken, had worked well. Commissioners approved that tower.
Resident Anthony Arnold, who had helped with the original ordinance, said it should stay as written. He said that the amendment would undo the intention of the ordinance.
He suggested, as did other speakers, that the amendment would be better served if it was reviewed in a public workshop.
Larry Ganus, Planning and Zoning Member, said his board’s intention was to table the issue for more information, especially concerning the fall zone.
He asked that a workshop be scheduled and someone from the cell tower industry be there to explain the fall zone and other issues.
Commissioner Gene Morgan asked Allara Mills Gutcher, Planning and Community Development Director, what was wrong with the current ordinance.
She replied that it was a challenge for tower companies to construct a tower in Gadsden County.
Commissioner Doug Croley said the process worked well with the Peavy property and asked if the current comp plan included a master cellular plan.
Gutcher said it did not.
Croley went on to say that the county had plenty of cell towers, but they should look for “dark zones” (no service) to place any new towers. He asked that there be an analysis of those areas.
County administrator Robert Presnell stated that the reason for the request was based on the commission’s desire to look at the county’s comp plan.
The board approved county staff taking it back to the planning and zoning board and that a workshop be held on January 9, 2014.