The Transylvania Times -

New Cell Tower To Improve Coverage - Brevard NC


December 10, 2018

County Commissioners unanimously approved a permit variance that will see the replacement of a telecommunications tower on Rich Mountain with a new one, which should significantly increase cell phone coverage in the Cedar Mountain area, including DuPont State Recreational Forest.

Commissioners approved the permit variance during its last meeting. The approval is contingent on the applicant, U.S. Cellular, receiving the necessary environmental doc-umentation.

U.S. Cellular wants to replace an existing guyed tower on Rich Mountain with a 150-foot monopole tower.

The application initially did not fully meet all requirements of the county’s

Telecommunications Tower Ordinance, so the county Planning Board was unable to approve the application.

U.S. Cellular then requested commissioners consider a variance.

Rich Mountain is the current location of five towers that were in place before the ordinance was amended in 2014.

These towers include EMS, State Police, Duke Energy and Fox News.

The new replacement tower would be on a protected mountain ridge in a location that is not 100 feet below the elevation of the protected ridge.

In addition, the proposed tower would be less than half of a mile from another existing tower, thus the request for a variance. On Oct. 18, the Planning Board recommended comm-issioners approve the variance request if an agreement and workable lease could not be obtained to allow colocation on the Fox News tower.

U.S. Cellular balked at having to pay Fox’s demand, which U.S. Cellular said was double the fair market value.

The fair market value is between $1,850 and $2,500 a month, but Fox wanted $4,000.

Prior to commissioners voting, County Manager Jaime Laughter said the county has a communication tower also on Rich Mountain and one day if commissioners decide to replace it, the county would have to issue a variance to its self.

She said this was “relevant information” when the commissioners decide to approve or deny the variance and set a precedence.

Commissioner Mike Hawkins said he was being “backed into a corner” and “given no choice” on approving the variance.

In reference to Laughter’s comments, the county, he said, would not have an alternative option, unlike U.S. Cellular.

“In this case there is clearly an alternative option,” he said. “The price being quoted costs too much. I feel backed into a corner on this. The question is being framed as you either have a choice of approving this or it’s a detriment to public safety. I reject the framing of the question that way because, again, there is an option. The Fox tower is an option.”

Commissioner Kelvin Phillips said he agreed with Hawkins but that safety was his most important concern because of the lack of cell phone coverage in the area.

Hawkins agreed.

It’s estimated that roughly 8,000 people may be served by the tower.

Commission Chairman Larry Chapman said he’d received a number of calls from Connestee residents. He reminded them that a few years ago a cell tower was proposed for Cantrell Mountain, which was opposed by many Connestee residents.

“You may not want it in your backyard, but if you want the service, you are going to have to deal with some of these issues,” he said. “You can’t have it both ways.”

He said he’d like to know why Fox is charging double the rate.

He agreed with Hawkins about not liking to be placed in a corner but that it was a safety issue.

In other action:

•The Friends of Silvermont (FOS) gave a presentation on the work it has done to improve the mansion and asked the county to formalize its partnership with the organization, including helping with the storage of PumpkinFest displays.

According to FOS, it has raised about $200,000 from donations and fundraising events since 2013 and paid for about $165,000 for improvements to the mansion and grounds.

These improvements include renovating the first floor, painting the exterior and upgrading the main trail, among other things.

The FOS believes the improvements could see increased fees and mansion usage for weddings and special events, for example.

This year, PumpkinFest attracted more than 2,700 customers. Forty percent of the customers, according to FOS, were drawn from outside our county with an approximate economic impact of $150,000.

Commissioners made no decision on FOS’s request.

•County offices will be closed from noon to 5 p.m., Dec. 21, to allow county staff to attend the annual luncheon.

•Commissioners approved $6,500 in funding toward the Horse Cove Road Trail project.

The City of Brevard received a grant for partial funding of the trail.

The trail would connect Horse Cove Road, which runs from the Fish Hatchery to Bracken Preserve, to Joel Branch Road, which runs to the Davidson River Campground.

It would provide a direct route for mountain bikers and hikers from Bracken Preserve to the campground.

•Commissioners approved Cedar Mountain Fire Department’s request to support their efforts to secure additional funding from the state for fire and rescue services on state property.

In 2017, Cedar Mountain Fire Rescue received 242 calls, including 41 at DuPont State Recreational Forest. This year, Cedar Mountain Fire Rescue has received $753 in state funding.

•Commissioners approved roughly $483,000 in funding to replace a section of the Community Services Building roof and the HVAC system.


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