Durham News: Opinion

Neighbors need voice on cell-phone tower decisions

What are you going to do when you get home from a long day at work and there’s a bulldozer tearing up the lot next door to erect a 120-foot cell phone tower without your ever having been notified and never having had an opportunity to voice your opinion about it? 

This scenario is going to continue to be a reality for some of our Durham neighbors unless we convince the Durham Planning Commission before 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 10, that the Wireless Communication Facility (WCF) Ordinance Amendment TC1200013 for the Durham City/County UDO needs to include residents in the decision process as to where and how towers are sited in residential zones.

Durham residents want and need communication services. Towers, sometimes called “vertical real estate,” support communication arrays and are a big business, each generating hundreds of thousand dollars a year as they rent space to wireless broadband companies. However, these high-rise, commercial enterprises with their equipment compounds containing air conditioners, generators and fuel tanks can place a burden on the homes they are located next to by reducing property values because of perceived health risks, safety and noise issues, and visual pollution.

The InterNeighborhood Council of Durham believes the evaluation of the suitability of a cell phone tower site in all Durham County residential zones should include the individuals whose lives will be impacted, which means prior notification for residents within a reasonable proximity to the proposed tower site and a public hearing allowing the affected residents a platform to have their concerns, if any, addressed before approval. The pending amended WCFUDO text, as it presently stands, leaves the residents of existing county suburban neighborhoods without the same safety and aesthetic standards as their suburban counterparts inside the city line.

Today, I call on all concerned citizens to show your immediate support by e-mailing the Planning Commissioners relating that we want to resolve the following oversights of the amended TC1200013 before the amendment becomes law: 1) Durham residents deserve notice of proposed cell phone towers coming into or next to their neighborhood and should have an opportunity to have their concerns addressed before a tower is approved and 2) existing Durham city and county neighborhoods should be treated equally with the same tower regulations. Go to http://durhamnc.gov/ich/cb/ccpd/Pages/Durham-Planning-Commission.aspx and click on e mail all commissioners.

To read the WCF/UDO amendment:

http://durhamnc.gov/ich/cb/ccpd/Pages/Text%20Amendments/Pending-Text-Amendments.aspx

Dolly Fehrenbacher is a member of the InterNeighborhood Council Zoning/Land Use Committee.

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