This town’s planning board signaled its approval of a cell phone tower project off Barbee Street extension after a joint public hearing on the matter on Monday.
The special use permit request by Skyway Towers to construct a 195-foot-tall monopole tower on land owned by Ann Fowler at 704 W. Barbee Street will go before Zebulon commissioners for final consideration at their April 6 meeting.
The tower would bring improved cellular reception for T-Mobile customers in Zebulon, and possibly for customers of other carriers in the future.
The planning board was swift in making a unanimous recommendation in favor of the tower after representatives of the project provided expert testimony and one local resident spoke in opposition of the tower during a nearly hour-long hearing.
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Ronald Harris, whose property is directly across the road from the proposed cell tower site, said he didn’t see the need for the new tower when there are others located nearby. He came bearing research documents on health concerns related to multiple cell phone towers within a close proximity of one another and a map showing the location of towers in the area.
“Sky Towers already has a tower within a half a mile of this proposed site and this map says it’s 199 feet tall,” Harris said. “How far (apart) do these towers need to be since we already have a (Skyway) tower less than a half a mile from this site? There’s just not that many people out there.”
Tom Johnson, a land use attorney representing the applicant, replied saying a half-mile radius is a tight radius, but that the goal is to achieve equally tight service. He shared before-and-after graphics to show the void in reception the new tower is expected to fill.
Johnson opened Monday’s hearing by speaking to the town’s leaders on the need for the tower, citing a continual increase in the use of cellular devices.
Impact consultant Graham Herring then testified that the tower would not have any adverse effects on the surrounding area.
“People are starting to use their mobile phones and not using their landlines as much to communicate,” Johnson said. “In order to be able to do that, you need a good signal not only outside or in your car but when you’re in a building or inside your house.”
Johnson also said there is an increase in demand for data coverage and he argued the tower will enhance safety through improved access to emergency services through the wireless system.
“To have a strong data service and reliable data service is the other reason for this tower,” he said. “More than anything, the coverage is just not significant coverage in that area … off of Barbee Street.”