Fort Mill Times

New cellphone tower could come to Lake Wylie

A new cell tower could come to Lake Wylie, on 7 acres near Pole Branch Road.

York County Council passed the first of three required votes to rezone more than 7 acres at 5018 Windmill Lane. The rezoning would reduce the number of homes or other structures allowed on the property, but is a step for owner Randall Fields to later apply for a public service use that would allow the tower.

“The purpose of this request is T-Mobile USA has a very big coverage deficit in the area for both voice and advanced wireless,” said Jonathan Yates, who applied for the rezoning with Fields.

“They’ve studied this coverage deficit for some time in Clover,” Yates said. “They’ve determined that Randy’s property is the perfect solution.”

Yates said the only problem with the property is its zoning. If the rezoning is approved, he said he can ask the county board of zoning appeals for the public use designation later this year.

Proposed is a 170-foot tower. It isn’t tall enough to require lights, he said, and will be designed with fake foliage.

“It’s designed to look like a pine tree,” Yates said.

Fields and his son told the County Council last week that the tower would help with dead cellphone spots along Pole Branch Road and on the lake. It would be 60 feet by 60 feet, fenced in and well-maintained, Fields said.

“I think it actually will be good for our community to have the service,” he said.

Overall reception among residents wasn’t quite so clear.

Lisa Highberger recently purchased a foreclosed property on Windmill, one of two homes on the eight-parcel road not owned by the Fields family. Highberger is concerned about studies she came across showing property values decreasing by 10 percent to 20 percent beside cell towers, and the 40 homes within 1,000 feet of the proposal.

“We’ve invested a lot of money in the renovation, and we found out the parcel beside of our home is where this cell tower is targeted,” she said. “That’s a concern for us.”

Health issues from radiation with a tower also concern her. The American Cancer Society does not believe cellphone towers pose health risks to those who live nearby.

But, Highberger said she would have a hard time selling her property, given her own thoughts knowing a tower is coming.

“I wouldn’t have purchased there,” she said.

Council passed first reading unanimously. Councilman Bruce Henderson, who represents the area, said this case is one where the necessary three readings and consideration by the zoning board of appeals are a good form of slow government. Issues need to be studied and resolved, he said, before a final decision.

“It is an issue out there with the reception,” Henderson said. “Where this ends up I don’t know for sure, but just for the sake of giving the benefit of the doubt for the property owner, at this point I will move forward.”

While aimed at bringing a tower, the current rezoning request also serves to limit density.

Audra Miller, county planning and development services director, said current zoning allows for apartments, townhomes and similar uses. The request would limit any new construction to one unit per acre.

“This is definitely a down-zoning from what would currently be allowed,” she said.

Yates said the reduced potential for land development is necessary for the plan. He has 21 years in the wireless business and has seen service needs go from towers on the interstate and major highways to in-fill towers in residential areas. Based in Charleston County, Yates said more than 80 percent of 911 calls come from mobile phones.

“Wireless has gone from a business man’s toy, from a rich man’s toy, to a way of life for all of us,” Yates said.

Henderson said passage of first reading is common to gather more information for subsequent readings, and isn’t an endorsement of the project. Council members didn’t specifically object to parts of the plan, either.

“You’ve got your whole process to go through,” Henderson said.

John Marks •  803-831-8166