An Orange County board will hear plans Monday for a cell tower that residents fear would loom over the neighborhood at Kerley and Mt. Sinai roads on the Durham County line.
Skyway Towers LLC and wireless provider T-Mobile have applied to build a monopole-style tower in a 5.8-acre horse pasture on Orange County’s eastern border.
The 129-foot tower and shed would take up 3,600 square feet on the southwest corner and be enclosed with an 8-foot-high wood fence.
A 20-foot landscaping buffer would surround the fenced-in area. Leah Bergman, who owns 5022 Kerley Road, would lease the tower site and allow T-Mobile to use a gravel driveway off Mt. Sinai Road.
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The county’s Board of Adjustment will consider the permit application in a quasi-judicial process, meaning only sworn, expert testimony and factual evidence will be allowed.
Bergman declined to comment Wednesday when reached at her home.
Neighbors have raised about $10,000, meanwhile, and mounted a campaign to fight the tower, according to Kerley Road resident Jonathan Blitz.
It will be “a flagpole in the middle of the field,” said Mark Waller, who lives across Kerley Road from the proposed site. His home, at the Waller Family Farm, is in Durham County.
Waller’s grandparents started the farm in 1943. He grew up there, watching as more families, subdivisions and a school moved in the last few decades.
The neighborhood still retains many rural characteristics, Waller said, and the farm still raises livestock and hay. His grandfather’s tobacco fields now lay ripe each spring with strawberries and visitors toting buckets.
Everything has value, Waller said, but it’s hard to put a price on what they have now.
“I’m not talking about financial value,” he said. “What is a day of health worth? The solitude. Listening to the cows, listening to the chickens, picking strawberries.”
The land is outside Durham’s urban growth area and zoned for single-family residential and agricultural uses. The cell tower site is in Orange County’s rural buffer, an area also set aside for less-intense uses. It is less than a quarter-mile from an existing, 121-foot American Tower cell tower.
The men said neighbors aren’t opposed to a cell tower but would rather see it in a more secluded spot. The proposed site – roughly 500 to 700 feet from homes, Forest View Elementary School and PruittHealth’s Carolina Point nursing and rehabilitation center – is enclosed by an evenly spaced line of trees and bushes.
Waller and Carolina Point residents, who often sit outside under the center’s carport, would have a clear view of the tower. The heavily forested area to the site’s north and east obscure those views.
Sites farther west on Mt. Sinai are better suited and fill the gap in T-Mobile’s service, Waller and Blitz said. Another neighbor suggested Bergman could lease her open field to the northeast instead. That field is surrounded by pine trees, blocking the view.
A federal broadband map shows T-Mobile service is unavailable from the neighborhood to western Hillsborough. Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel service are available in the area.
The Orange County Board of Adjustment meets at 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 8, in the Whitted Building, 300 W. Tryon St. in Hillsborough.