Andrew Dys

Clover neighbors, councilman, vow to fight 180-foot cell tower at zoning appeals board

On one side of the ring is the Town of Clover. On the other side is the residents and a town councilman who says nobody said anything to anybody about a 180-foot cell tower to be built so close to houses that people could just about run a clothesline to the frame and hang their Christmas stockings out to dry.

A zoning battle is brewing to see who is right.

Distraught and disgruntled neighbors, and Clover Town Councilman Todd Blanton, say that not only is the proposed tower too close to homes – as close as a few dozen yards – but also not a single resident who lives near the planned tower knew anything about it.

Their solution is to fight the town in its own arena – the Zoning Board of Appeals.

“We have got to do everything we can,” Blanton said.

Blanton, who represents the area in Clover where the tower would be built, wants to help the affected residents raise the $300 required to apply to have the complaint heard.

Blanton found out about the tower when he saw a construction crew at the site. He talked to town officials who confirmed the planned tower, leading Blanton to go door-to-door telling neighbors that the town had approved it.

Town officials say the tower conforms to existing zoning and because no zoning change was needed, there was no requirement to tell the residents. The tower would be near atextile mill that has sat vacant for years.

The tower would be located across the street from homes on two sides and within sight of hundreds of homes.

“I don’t care if it is legal – it doesn’t make it right,” Blanton said of the tower. “I don’t like it and I don’t want it there.”

He is not alone.

The neighbors don’t want it there and say that an appeal to the zoning board claiming that the town zoning laws are wrong, or that the town’s building officials should not have approved the tower, might be the only chance to stop the tower before it starts.

“Appealing the decision seems to be the only way,” said Ed Dees Jr., who lives across a tiny street from where the tower would stand.

Dees said it is “silly” that the town would require its own residents to pay $300 to fight the tower, but one way or another, he and others will raise the money.

“We have to pay the town where we live and pay taxes and don’t want the tower for the chance to argue against it?” Dees wondered.

Both Blanton and Dees want the tower built in another location that is not so close to homes.

Dees, who lives much closer than 180 feet from the tower, claims that the tower violates the town’s own zoning code, which requires cell towers to be a “fall zone” away from homes. Dees said that alone means that the town should not have approved the tower.

Clover’s zoning code states: “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.”

Blanton said he was told by town officials that the tower was designed in a way that makes the fall zone much smaller.

Another town councilman, Wes Spurrier, said he was told by town officials the tower design has a 42-foot “fall zone” that conforms to Clover zoning code.

“I’m not completely comfortable with a tower of that height being built in the middle of town, as it’s clearly not the ideal location,” Spurrier said in a statement. “However, the application was submitted for that particular location, so at that point, it’s the obligation of the town to approve or deny the application based on the specifications, and how well they meet the zoning requirements. In this case, I understand the requirements were met, so town staff approved the application for permits accordingly.”

The tower would be built on private property owned by a plumbing company that would rent the land to cell provider Verizon for the tower. The tower was approved by town officials Oct. 14 after an application was made Oct. 2, documents show. The current zoning for the property is industrial so town officials say no action was required by the town to notify residents.

That may be legal, said Blanton and Dees, but that doesn’t mean that people should not have been told of the intent to build the town’s tallest structure.

Clover’s town administrator and building official have not responded to repeated attempts to get the town to explain Clover’s position on the tower. The town hasn’t explained its side to Blanton either- and he sits on its town council.

So the next step is to fight the tower using the towns own device – the zoning appeals board. And finding $300 to do it.

“We have to do that,” Blanton said, “And we need to do it quick.”

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065