A proposed 180-foot cellphone tower already approved in Clover has neighbors and the town councilman who represents the area outraged.
And worse: the town told nobody about it, including the councilman.
“This tower was a secret,” said Clover Town Councilman Todd Blanton.
The tower to be built on Walnut Street behind a textile mill in disrepair for years would be right across a tiny street from Ed Dees Jr.’s front porch. The proposed tower would be surrounded by barbed wire and would likely be the tallest structure in the town.
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Dees went across town Thursday to look at a similar tower that was built in a wooded area. But the one near him would be just yards away.
“It is just terrible – this is horrible,” said Dees, who has lived in his home for 10 years. “No one asked us anything. No one told us anything. Not one word.”
Clover Town Councilman Todd Blanton was stunned. He did not know about the tower until last week. He says the site is wrong because of its enormity so close to homes is a safety risk. There’s the potential radiation and health concerns, Blanton said, as well as effects on potential real estate value of homes.
‘It just ain’t right’
Blanton, who lives 14 houses down the street from the site and drives past the spot every day, saw a crew with drilling equipment on the property last week and stopped to find out what was going on.
“I was shocked,” Blanton said. “I’m on the Town Council, and I didn’t know anything. Nobody said a word.”
Both Blanton and Dees used the term “eyesore” to describe the proposed tower that is next to the “eyesore” of a textile mill.
Blanton said bluntly: “It just ain’t right.”
The tower would be across the street from homes on two sides and a church, but would be visible to “half the town” or more, Blanton said.
None of the neighbors knew anything about the tower Thursday, except for what Blanton had told them after he went door-to-door asking people if they knew and if they approved.
“I found a few who are neutral, but many people didn’t know and are upset not only that they didn’t know, but that the town would want to build the tower so close to where they live,” Blanton said.
Town Council member Debbie Williams said she didn’t know anything about the tower until this week when Blanton asked her about it.
One of the reasons that the public in Clover had no clue about the tower is there may have been no legal requirement to hold a public hearing about it. Town records on the tower application obtained by The Herald Thursday show that the property is zoned industrial despite being on a vacant home lot on a residential street outside the fence line of the old mill.
The property at 210 Walnut St. in Clover is owned by a Charlotte plumbing company and the $140,000 tower would be operated by cellular provider Verizon, public records at Clover Town Hall reviewed Thursday by The Herald show. An application for a zoning permit for the tower is dated Oct. 2, town records show. The application was approved just 12 days later on Oct. 14.
The application shows that the zoning was reviewed by town officials and the permit approved and signed.
Records from 2014 town meetings that Blanton provided to The Herald show that the property owner applied for a rezoning from industrial to residential and an initial approval was granted last year by the Clover Town Council – but the change never had a second reading so the zoning did not change.
Blanton said Thursday that Allison Harvey, the town administrator, told him in an email that the tower meets Clover’s current zoning codes. Yet, Harvey conceded to Blanton in an email that the tower is a “very highly charged issue.”
Dees, the neighbor, has concerns that the tower might violate the town’s own rules. The town’s zoning code that took effect Jan. 1 shows: “Towers or antennas shall be located such that adequate setbacks are provided on all sides to prevent the tower's fall zone from encroaching onto adjoining properties. Should this fall zone encroach onto another property, a recorded easement may be prepared and signed by the adjacent property owner to ensure there will not be any structure built within the fall zone.”
Dees, the neighbor, said that his home is just yards from the tower and if the tower feel it could be right on his house with him and his disabled wife inside.
“I didn’t sign any easement – I just found out they were building a tower just yards from my face,” an exasperated Dees said.
Blanton said that he was told by the town building official that the tower design is such that if the tower were to fall, it would fall in pieces, straight down and not sideways.
“That doesn’t make anybody just yards away feel any safer,” Blanton said.
Attempts Wednesday and Thursday to reach both Harvey, the town administrator, and C.J. Dover, Clover’s building official, about the tower and its approval by town officials were unsuccessful.
Can anything stop the tower?
Blanton said that he is reviewing options to see if anything can be done before construction begins. The town’s zoning code states Clover has a zoning board of appeals that could be where Blanton and Dees and others might try to stop the project.
Blanton said the town should consider other sites that are not so close to residences.
“It is not an appropriate site,” Blanton said.
What appears to be approval by the town after adhering to zoning rules may mean, said Blanton, “that this tower can be built.”
“But,” he said, “that doesn’t mean it should be built.”
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065