Belington Council votes against cell tower permit

Following six months of research, meetings, discussions and deliberations, Belington City Council voted unanimously Thursday to deny a Verizon Wireless cellphone tower building permit.

The much-debated permit would have allowed construction of a 190-foot cell tower containing 12 panel antennas. Homeowners Richard and Nancy Snider opposed the tower, saying it would bring down their property value because of the proximity of the tower to their home.

During the public comment section of Thursday’s meeting, Verizon attorney, Jeff Kimble asked council members to approve the cellphone tower and presented them with a Verizon coverage map.

“What you have are a lot of gaps in coverage in Route 250,” Kimble said. “If you turn to the second page, you will see how that will change if the tower is built and put into operation. There would be seamless coverage on 250 and in the town. Verizon has a license with the FCC to provide this level of coverage.”

He also said if Verizon would need to move the tower to a less efficient location, the height of the tower would most likely be more than 200 feet or higher and would require a flashing light.

“One way or another, Verizon will have to get the authority to build this tower or another one,” Kimble said. “So, they have spent a lot of time, a lot of federally required studies, testing and so forth. A lot of money has been spent on this project. It is now ready in every respect other than your approval. That’s what we are asking for.”

Snider said the city was kind enough to give Verizon a variance several years ago, and asked Kimble why the cell tower in question was not constructed then.

“Each tower needed to be constructed to assure coverage,” Kimble said. “I am not sure why this was not constructed sooner.”

As Snider addressed council members Thursday, she told them her property value would decrease by half if they allowed the cell tower to be built.

“We are not ignorant people, and we had no knowledge that the tower would be built so close to our home or we would not have built there,” Snider said.

“It just comes down to a matter of opinion – if you let this tower be built, it will abolish everything we have,” she said. “We thought zoning laws were in place to protect landowners from this. Just remember, this could happen to any one of you.”

Following council’s decision to deny the permit, Kimble left the meeting and did not return.

Snider said she was relieved by the decision.

“We are just so grateful that they (City Council) took the time they did coming up with the decision,” Snider said. “They investigated the rules – we got the decision we wanted, but we feel it was the right decision for the future.”

In March, the building permit inspector for Belington, Don Harris, recommended denying the permit because of a limit on structures of more than 80 feet within city limits. Council denied the permit under their guidelines and passed the matter to the Zoning Board of Appeals committee, which has the authority to approve a variance.

The Zoning Board met in early August, hearing testimony from both sides of the issue. Members of the Belington Planning Commission met in late August and made a recommendation to deny the building permit. On Wednesday, the Zoning Board of Appeals recommended that City Council allow the construction.

Belington Mayor Bobby King and Councilman Max Grove thanked the members of the Zoning Board of Appeals and Belington Planning Commission for their hard work on the cell tower issue.

The next Belington City Council meeting is slated for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 19.