Johnston County

Clayton OKs cell tower north of town

By this fall, a new Verizon cell tower between Clayton and Archer Lodge will fill in the coverage gap north of the Neuse River. The Clayton Town Council on Monday issued a special-use permit allowing the tower.

Clayton requires a special-use permit for any new cell phone tower and hires an outside consultant to evaluate the application. This new tower will be on private land off of Covered Bridge Road. It will stand 155 feet tall and be topped with a nine-foot lightning rod for an overall height of 164 feet.

“It’s really just about an 80- by 80-foot enclosure with a tower in the middle and some associated equipment on the ground,” town planner Jay McLeod said.

Consultant Susan Rabold of the Greensboro firm City Scape said she reviewed Verizon’s geographic assessment of the Covered Bridge Road area and agreed the coverage gap warranted a new tower. Currently, the closest cell towers north of the Neuse River are in Wendell and north of Archer Lodge. The Covered Bridge Road area has no buildings or structures on which to build a tower, so a new, standalone tower was the only option, Rabold said.

Rabold said she considered a concealed tower, like those resembling tall pines, but that would have limited the number of carriers that could buy onto the tower. At least one carrier, in this case Verizon, had to sign on with tower builder and operator Crown Castle for the town council to approve the tower. After that, the tower has room for five more carriers.

“Because this lease area is so far off the road, we didn’t think a (concealed tower) was necessary because it’s not right in a residential community,” Rabold said.

The tower will not be lit, Crown Castle’s Tony Stewart said, as the Federal Aviation Administration does not require structures under 200 feet to have lights.

David Smith is an appraiser from Durham hired by Crown Castle to talk about how cell towers affect property values. He said landowners would see no negative impacts from the tower.

“I found a subdivision in Holly Springs that had a tower very similar to this, right in the subdivision,” Smith said. “I analyzed houses right next to it and across the street and compared those to other houses in the subdivision and found that there was very little difference” in property values.

While proximity to unsightly towers might once have been a red flag for moving into an area, residents now demand reliable cell coverage, Smith said.

“I’ve watched the evolution of cell towers,” Smith said. “It used to be, people would say, ‘A cell tower, that’s a terrible thing.’ Now people don’t want to buy a house that doesn’t have cell access. There is some visual impact, but I don’t think it affects property values.”

Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson