Andrew Dys

Judge: Clover residents’ fight against cell tower back to square one

In the fight against a proposed 180-foot cell tower in Clover, opponents found out Thursday that their five-month battle against the tower means nothing and the fight has to begin anew.

Yet the tower is no closer to being built, and the opponents remain undaunted. They vow to fight the tower until the bitter end.

“That tower will be 40 yards from my front door, and I will fight against it as long as there is a fight to be fought,” said Ed Dees Jr., whose Clover home sits right across a tiny street from the proposed tower site.

Dees is not convinced that even with a clean slate and a chance to go back and fight against the tower from the start, he can get a fair shake. Dees said in court that it is not possible for him to get a fair hearing in Clover from the zoning board or town officials.

“I was misled from the beginning,” Dees said of Clover officials’ handling of his objections.

Circuit Judge Jack Kimball ruled Thursday in a lawsuit filed by Dees as an appeal to a zoning decision in order to stop the tower that a ruling in January by the zoning board of appeals in Clover is moot.

Kimball made the ruling because Clover had a town employee on the zoning board in January – which turned out to be illegal –and even Clover officials who want the tower concede that the town conducted a vote that was improper.

Dees had appealed the zoning board’s decision, but the board never made an official written decision after Clover officials found out they bungled the roster of zoning officials and made the January hearing illegal and moot.

“It’s as if it never occurred,” Kimball said.

The ruling means that Dees and dozens of his neighbors, including Clover Town Councilman Todd Blanton, will have another chance to appear before the zoning board in a few months for a fresh chance to fight the tower.

Blanton lives near the site and was the first to alert neighbors about the tower. Because the tower is, according to the town, correct under current zoning, no one knew about the tower until Blanton saw surveying and construction equipment.

The tower plans are now in limbo, at least for months, and Blanton who attended the hearing said he is encouraged that the tower can be stopped.

“I want Clover to be the town with “love” in the middle of it again, not the town with a cell tower in the middle of it,” Blanton said.

Neighbor Teresa Hurst, also opposed to the tower as are dozens of others who live not just near the site but around Clover, attended the hearing and remarked afterward that zoning rules in South Carolina specifically show that zoning is supposed to be used to promote a harmonious community.

“There is nothing harmonious about a cell tower in the middle of Clover,” Hurst said.

Al Haselden, Clover’s town attorney, said in court that the town and zoning board took steps last month to “rectify the situation,” by tabling the January decision and asking for a new hearing when the zoning board is properly staffed.

Yet that hearing –perhaps as soon as April – likely will again pit Dees, who wants to raise many objections against the tower, against the town which claims Dees only objected in writing about safety when opposing the tower initially.

Dees wants all his objections – safety, zoning rules, zoning board makeup, aesthetics, radiation concerns and more – heard by the town and its zoning board.

Clover officials have said repeatedly that under current zoning, the tower fits and a permit must be issued. Yet this is the same Clover that had a town employee on the zoning board, which is without question illegal. More, it remains unclear if the town will oppose Dees bringing up several objections to the zoning board when he fights the next time because the town lawyer said in court Thursday that “it comes up so seldom, we don’t have a well-defined policy,” concerning zoning appeals.

So now, after five months of fighting and $300 to file the appeal, Dees has to start fighting the town he lives in and wants to stay in all over again.