Clover’s zoning rules, and the law, may be on the side of allowing a 180-foot cell tower to be built within yards of the front porch of homes, and a church, and within sight of hundreds of people – but that doesn’t make it right.
Not a single person who won’t make money from the tower wants it. Not one.
Worse, the tower that neighbors call an “eyesore, a “monstrosity,” and words that aren’t used in a newspaper, was a secret withheld from the public until the plans were already approved.
“This is as tall as a 20-story building,” said neighbor James Zurn. “Right next to people’s houses.”
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Zurn spoke passionately, ball cap turned backwards, about the tower. He seemed stunned anyone would attempt such a stunt.
But it is happening.
Thursday night in a meeting of outraged neighbors, Clover’s zoning board of appeals upheld the town’s permit for the tower despite several of the members seeming not to know what they were voting for, or why. The board has not heard a zoning appeal in at least five years – and the last dispute was over a stove.
Clover town officials never told anybody anything about the tower until town councilman Todd Blanton saw construction equipment near his home. He discovered Verizon wanted to build a cell tower. Blanton, with neighbors, has opposed the tower since finding out the secret.
“I blame the secrecy of the whole way the thing was handled,” said neighbor Rhett Hurst.
Because the property next to a dilapidated textile mill is zoned industrial, town officials say no public notice was required. That may be legal, but not telling Ed Dees Jr. that a tower 180 feet tall would be built 40 yards from his front porch and his face would be in the shadow of the tower every afternoon of his life is wrong.
Dees is no lawyer: He works the second shift at Lowe’s.
“My house that my wife and I have – that’s all we got,” Dees said. “This tower takes away all I ever worked for.”
Tempers flared Thursday night at the zoning meeting, because this tower is not some government program about other people. This was about real people who are upset.
Neighbors Thomas Hill, Craig Poole, Teresa Hurst and Laurin McCarley spoke passionately against the tower, over property values and how big and ugly it would be. Jay Grayson, a magistrate judge who owns three properties, spoke against the tower, saying it would harm property values.
Outgoing York County Councilman Bruce Henderson, who lives two blocks away and voted on dozens of zoning decisions, said zoning is supposed to be about betterment of people’s lives.
“This adversely affects the neighborhood ... does harm to our citizens. ... It is our duty to give our citizens the benefit of the doubt,” Henderson said.
Clover’s town staff claims it has no choice, that the tower is legal so a permit must be issued and go up.
The will of the people over something right in their face be damned.
Blanton is looking for a lawyer to take the case to court, putting the decision in the hands of a judge instead of a town employee and a zoning board.
“Let me be clear: I am outraged at what has happened in my hometown of Clover and to the people of Clover over this tower,” Blanton said. “There is no doubt, none, that a better site can be found.”
That lawsuit will likely be filed within a month. The tower that will fill the eyes of hundreds all day every day if built will be halted long enough for more eyes to look at a plan that should have had the whole town’s eyes from the beginning.
The only ones shielding their eyes then will be the Clover officials, who, legal or not, required or not, should have let the residents affected know what was planned, and why, and what could be done about it – if anything.
In 2012, Clover jailed a 79-year-old war veteran for too much junk on his property. After The Herald reported on jailing an old man for junk, the people of Clover and the whole country were shocked.
Maybe the tower, right or wrong, legal or not, in an election year where candidates claim the people are in charge, will shock Clover and the country again.