Cell tower appeal denied
File Photo

DeSoto County Supervisors have denied the appeal of a Board of Adjustment decision to deny Verizon Wireless permission to erect an 190-foot tall monopole wireless tower on a 6.51 acre tract off Nail Road.

The Board of Adjustment had previously denied Verizon Wireless the necessary conditional use permit to allow the tower at 7323 Nail Road by a 3-1 vote.

The proposed tower would have been surrounded by residential property although the tower would have ostensibly been located on agricultural property.

Verizon was first denied the conditional use permit for a tower on Nov. 13.

Joey Hargis, a representative with Baker Donelson on behalf of Verizon said the wireless company determined there was a gap in coverage that the tower could help alleviate.

David McGehee, a real estate expert, also gave testimony that Verizon had determined there was a need for an additional telecommunications tower.

However, DeSoto County Supervisors cited the fact no independent hard evidence was suggested that such a gap existed, other than the company's charts and graphs.

Opponents countered by saying that tower space was available at local fire departments south and west of the proposed tower location.

"Is this tower necessary to fill a gap in coverage?" asked County Attorney Tony Nowak.

"Yes, it is," Hargis replied, adding the monopole would have no strobe lights or blinking lights and no homes would be located within the "fall zone." Hargis added the tower is designed to fall in on itself, rather than falling outside the zone, should such a situation occur.

"We believe the Board of Adjustment got it wrong," Hargis said. "There was no substantial evidence written into the record."

Verizon had obtained a lease agreement with Clarence Belew, a local landowner for the tower.

Opponents to the tower included nearby landowner Ronnie James, a 47-year resident of the area.

"I'm asking you to stop the 190-foot cell tower," James said. "The tower would be 137 feet from our property line and less than 280 feet from our home."

James presented a petition of 56 local property owners opposed to the tower.

"I know we have been in a cell phone world and cell towers are needed but I believe there is a better place for it," added James.

Terry Whitlock of 5837 Poplar Corner cited potential health concerns by the erection of the cell tower.

However, Nowak said that case law has held that no alleged health concerns can be weighed when determining whether or not to approve permits for cell towers.

Judy James, who is the wife of Ronnie James, also argued against the tower.

"One of my greatest concerns is property values," Judy James said. "Appraisers said the cell tower could cause a slow sale or a reduction in price. If we are within that fall zone, it could affect our homeowners insurance. Our neighbors don't want this."

Nathan Hickerson, another local resident, complained about the adverse affect to the aesthetics of the community.

"There is still a lot to love about the aesthetics of the county," Hickerson said.

Mike Hancock, Chief of the Walls Volunteer Fire Department, said other nearby alternatives existed than having to erect this particular tower.

District 5 Supervisor Michael Lee and Board President said he understood the residents' concerns.

"I can't understand where these cell towers can't be out of sight of the residents' backyards," Lee said.

Hargis replied that his clients had complied with all applicable ordinances and regulations and should not be denied their request for a permit.

Nowak did say the applicant had not provided an engineering report or evidence the Board of Supervisors could require as to the need for a telecommunications tower at that height and specifications.

Nowak was also quick to point out that aesthetics or potential health concerns could not be considered when deliberating about the tower. Nowak said "courts across the country" have been careful not to make generalized statements about aesthetics and cell towers.

By unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to deny the appeal of the Board of Adjustment. The motion to deny was made by District 3 Supervisor Bill Russell. The motion to deny was seconded by District 4 Supervisor Lee Caldwell.

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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