Orange County’s Board of Adjustment denied an application Monday for a cell tower on Kerley Road at the Durham-Orange county line.
Skyway Towers LLC and wireless provider T-Mobile had applied to build the 129-foot, monopole tower on 5.8 acres. The tower and a shed would have been enclosed with an 8-foot-high wood fence and 20-foot landscaping buffer.
Leah Bergman, who owns 5022 Kerley Road, would have leased the tower site and and provided T-Mobile with a gravel driveway off Mt. Sinai Road. She has declined to comment about the application.
The board rejected the application, Orange County planning supervisor Michael Harvey said, because the applicants didn’t show the project would be in harmony with the surrounding area or that enough was done to block neighbors’ view of the tower. The board also thought the applicants didn’t prove the tower would not hurt neighbors’ property values, he said.
T-Mobile and Skyway Towers LLC have 30 days to appeal the board’s written decision to Orange County Superior Court.
The site, on Orange County’s eastern border, is outside Durham’s urban growth area and zoned for single-family residential and agricultural uses. It also is in Orange County’s rural buffer, an area also set aside for less-intense uses, and near an existing, 121-foot American Tower cell tower.
Skyway Towers and T-Mobile officials said that tower is too low to meet their needs.
Their proposed tower would have been 500 to 700 feet from homes, Forest View Elementary School and PruittHealth’s Carolina Point nursing and rehabilitation center. Neighbors opposed to the tower formed a group called Keep Kerley Country, raising money for an attorney to fight the plan.
Blitz said about 60 neighbors showed up to oppose the plan at the meeting. Bergman was not there, Blitz said, but T-Mobile and Skyway Towers brought a team of experts to make their presentation.
“I think they were pretty stunned by (the decision),” Kerley Road resident Jonathan Blitz said.
Harvey acknowledged the neighbors’ testimony played a role in the board’s decision.
Blitz and other neighbors have said they don’t oppose a cell tower in a more secluded spot, suggesting other sites on Mt. Sinai or in Bergman’s open field immediately northeast of the proposed site.
Those sites also would fill the gap in T-Mobile’s service, they said. A federal broadband map shows the company’s service is unavailable from the neighborhood to western Hillsborough. Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel service are available in the area.