Andrew Dys

Clover cell tower opponents: Town employee on zoning board makes vote illegal

A sign opposing plans to build a cell phone tower in Clover is posted across the street from the proposed tower site.
A sign opposing plans to build a cell phone tower in Clover is posted across the street from the proposed tower site.

Clover residents upset over a proposed 180-foot cell tower in a residential neighborhood just yards from homes and a church now say that Clover illegally has a town employee on its zoning board, which would void a zoning decision last week to allow the tower.

Clover’s stormwater supervisor, William Vaughn, sits on the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals as vice-chairman and voted last week to approve zoning officials’ decision for a tower permit.

Town officials admit that Vaughn should not be a member of the zoning board because he is a town employee but did not know of the conflict before the vote Feb. 14, according to a letter from Clover town lawyer Al Haselden to tower opponent Ed Dees Jr. that was obtained Thursday by The Herald.

Vaughn has been a zoning board member since 2008 and became a town employee in 2012. Vaughn did not create the conflict and “bears no responsibility” for the situation, Haselden wrote. However, the town of Clover bears the responsibility for the mistake, described in Haseldon’s letter as an “oversight.”

Vaughn is not eligible to be on the zoning board, Haselden wrote, and it would be “problematic” if Clover moved forward without taking action back to the zoning board that would not include Vaughn.

Town officials now want to have the zoning board reconvene without Vaughn and either have the zoning board reconsider the vote to allow the tower taken on Jan. 14, or hold a re-hearing entirely, Haselden wrote.

It remains unclear when Clover will schedule a new hearing.

According to Town Councilman Todd Blanton, a vocal opponent of the tower planned for down the street from his home, state law 6-29-780 is clear where it states of zoning board of appeals members: “None of the members shall hold any other public office or position in the municipality or county.”

“That’s the way the law reads – period,” Blanton said.

Zoning board members are chosen by Clover’s Town Council. At the Jan. 14 meeting, Vaughn was again chosen by fellow board members to remain as vice-chairman. The meeting was the first in years for Clover’s zoning appeals board.

Tower foe Laurin McCarley, who has called the tower a “monstrosity and “eyesore,” has formally asked town officials to not only review the zoning board membership rules, but also throw out the decision made by the board last week.

Opponents want a new hearing where all community objections are heard.

“We still have not seen anything that shows the town looked into an alternative location as required by law,” said Blanton the councilman. “You can’t tell me that there is not a better place in Clover for a cell tower than across the street from people’s homes.”

Tower opponents have sought legal advice to try to keep the tower from going up, but have yet to file a lawsuit asking for a judge to halt construction. After the zoning decision Jan. 14, opponents have 30 days to appeal that decision in civil court.

Dees, who lives across the street just 40 yards from where the tower would be built, said that the makeup of the zoning board with a town employee is another reason that the town should step back and listen to residents upset over the secrecy of the tower and it moving forward despite opposition from residents.

“I am going to continue to fight against this tower – not just for me but for all my neighbors,” Dees said.

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065

It’s the law

S.C. Code of Laws: SECTION 6-29-780. Board of zoning appeals; membership; terms of office; vacancies; compensation.

(B) The board consists of not less than three nor more than nine members, a majority of which constitutes a quorum, appointed by the governing authority or authorities of the area served. The members shall serve for overlapping terms of not less than three nor more than five years or after that time until their successors are appointed. A vacancy in the membership must be filled for the unexpired term in the same manner as the initial appointment. The governing authority or authorities creating the board of zoning appeals may remove any member of the board for cause. The appointing authorities shall determine the amount of compensation, if any, to be paid to the members of a board of zoning appeals. None of the members shall hold any other public office or position in the municipality or county.