Andrew Dys

Clover zoning board denies controversial cell tower

After a raucous hearing Thursday evening filled with more than 40 opponents of a controversial cell tower, Clover’s zoning appeals board voted to deny the zoning permit issued to build the tower.

The meeting became emotional with one tower opponent, York County Councilman Bruce Henderson, voicing concerns that the public hearing had not been closed when he was approached and grabbed on the wrist by a Clover police officer who told Henderson that he was out of line to continue talking.

Henderson said afterward he will not file any complaint but was concerned that he was approached by law enforcement and the meeting had “turned into a circus.”

The board’s vote appears to stop the tower unless the tower company files an appeal of the zoning board decision by filing a civil lawsuit against the town. Tower officials, who said during the meeting that the tower was both safe and complied with Clover town zoning, declined to comment after the meeting.

The vote was three against the tower, and one for it. A fifth member recused himself.

Board chairman William Pugh, who said he has concerns about how the property became zoned industrial from residential, voted against the permit. Board member Martha Ashe was blunt in voting no, saying , “I wouldn’t want it in my yard. My answer is no.”

The decision of the board thrilled Ed Dees Jr., who filed the appeal of the permit saying the tower is unsafe and would destroy property values. Dees lives directly across the street from where the tower would have been built.

“The little guy won,” Dees said.

Dees and others protested the tower outside the meeting hall before the vote.

The proposed tower has caused conflict since late 2015. Many residents who want the tower in a more rural area instead of in a neighborhood. Dees said the tower companies choose poor neighborhoods for towers to try to build where people have no voice or money to fight back.

Many residents reiterated what has been said for seven months – the location is the problem – not having a tower built. Residents pleaded that Tower Com and Verizon find a more suitable location that has less effect on quality of life and property values.

The tower officials hinted during the meeting that more towers were likely coming. Allison Love, a county zoning board official and county council candidate opposed to the tower site, said the tower people “let that cat out of the bag” about more towers coming and tower builders could find other sites that do not affect the quality of life for so many Clover residents.

Henderson was even more vehement, saying Clover needed to “step up” and find a more suitable site.

The town administrator, Allison Harvey, and the tower company’s officials claimed again Thursday that the tower is both safe and that building it at the site is legal under Clover zoning rules.

For months the issue has been argued, including a botched zoning board vote in January that was nullified when it was found that Clover had a town employee on the zoning board.

When one tower officials rationalized Thursday night the tower as being safe and would give better customer service, one angry tower opponent, Brenda Adams, who has lived in Clover more than 50 years called out: “It’s our town, not theirs.”

Tower officials conceded in the meeting that the tower would be built in a residential neighborhood, but say that site was chosen because it is zoned industrial and Clover’s town rules allow it.

And that is the real issue that could end up in a court if there is an appeal. Clover officials and the tower builders say it is legal under town rules – so town officials approved it.

But tower site opponents Clover Town Councilman Todd Blanton and Teresa Hurst, a neighbor, passionately argued that Clover town officials botched the permit that is filled with errors and it is invalid.

Yet the tower location so close to people has enraged residents who cannot believe that the tower could not be built on a site less intrusive to neighbors. Neighbor Dianne Wyatt even protested with a sign before the meeting, saying the site chosen is “terrible.”

“I would be looking at that tower just like I look at that dilapidated mill next to it right from my front porch,” Wyatt said. “I feel Iike being citizen of Clover, we should be able to be told why was our area chosen?”

A youth pastor, K.J. Morrow, at a church across from the street from where the tower would be built, even compared the tower to the biblical tower of Babel. Morrow lives in the church parsonage and said the tower so close to where people live and worship is a poor choice.

“If you had to live there, you would think twice about the decision you are about to make,” Morrow said to applause in the meeting.