A 199-foot T-Mobile telecommunications tower could provide more consistent and reliable coverage to residents in northeast Holly Springs, a developer says. Or, the tower might not be built at all if the developer or property owner change their minds.
The Holly Springs Town Council unanimously approved at its Aug. 18 meeting the special exception use and development plan for the structure, but denied exceptions requested by developer Skyway Towers LLC.
The cell tower would be on a 10.8-acre piece of land at the end of Turner Drive that’s owned by Benjamin McDonald of Goldsboro. It would take up about one-third of an acre while the rest of the property would remain unused.
About half a dozen residents expressed concerns about the project, namely that it would affect their property values.
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Even though the council approved the development plan to allow Skyway Towers to move forward with the project, it denied the developer’s requests for concessions to the town rules. The developer now will need to: extend the road and waterline to the site; have a paved access road, instead of a gravel one; and eventually will be annexed by the town.
Elizabeth Goodson, the town’s development review engineer, said the planning board recommended denying the concessions to improve emergency vehicle access to the site via the road extension and to make future utility connectivity available.
Gray Styers, a lawyer representing Skyway Towers, questioned why the company would be required to extend the road and waterline for an area that wouldn’t use them. He said if McDonald sells the property for another project, then that developer should be expected to extend utilities.
“Why burden this use for what is going to be benefiting others down the road?” he said. “It would be more appropriate to ask those others to bear that cost at that time.”
Styers said the cell phone towers are necessary to attract younger generations that insist on having service in their homes. Without the connectivity, he said, property values could decrease.
“This is becoming an increasingly residential service that people want to use in their homes,” he said. “We feel like this is an excellent site that will greatly increase T-Mobile’s coverage in Holly Springs.”
But current residents say they worry that having the tower near their properties would affect their property values.
“Realtors say that 94 percent of the people wouldn’t buy a home with a cell tower, so I just want to put a face on the fact that this is a residential area,” said Faith Greene, who owns property that backs up to the proposed tower location.
Anthony Ward, who lives in Angier but owns property on Edwards Drive, asked council members whether they would buy a home near a cell tower or if they would prefer living elsewhere.
“We need things in our community that enhance the community,” Ward said, emphasizing sidewalks as one of the area needs. “We need things that will make the road better and make the people feel better about their community.”
Resident Bill Rousseau supports the tower and urged the council to approve the developer’s requests for concessions. He said denying them could discourage the owner from allowing the cell tower to be built on the property entirely, particularly if annexation is required and he must pay additional taxes.
“The tower is going to provide a significant community benefit,” Rousseau said. “It will improve the choices for a lot of people in the town of Holly Springs.
“If Mr. McDonald decides, ‘Hey, it’s not financially feasible to go through with this thing because of the conditions being imposed,’ the town of Holly Springs loses,” he said.
But the council voted to approve the development plan and denied the additional requests after hearing from Holly Springs Fire Chief LeRoy Smith. He said first-responders will need improved access to the land.
“Cell towers provide some unique issues for first-responders,” Smith said. “Over the last 10 years, there’s been 15 major cell phone tower fires in the United States. There’s pretty much 100 percent chance statistics will show that this will get struck by lightning at some point.”’
If Skyway Towers decides to move forward with the project, Town Planner Sean Ryan said the company would have a few more steps to take, including the construction drawing process and building permit review, before beginning construction.
“Sometimes we have projects that once they get approval from council, they don’t go anywhere,” he said.
Kathryn Trogdon; 919-460-2608; @KTrogdon