For a second consecutive meeting, Jefferson County’s Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday took action on an application for a new AT&T cell tower in Lancaster Township between Midway and Dupont, this time granting final approval for the project to move forward with a variance from developmental standards on the front setback.
The request was originally received last month for the cell tower at 7386 North State Road 7, between Madison and Dupont on property owned by Mike Frazier and Drew Frazier. The BZA approved conditional use for the relay towers and transmitting stations but there was a question about the setback.
AT&T currently rents space off an existing nearby SBA Communications tower, but wants its own tower which brought opposition from by SBA.
The variance was required because the new tower will not meet a county requirement of being 90-feet from the center of road or 50-feet from the right-of-way (whichever is greater).
With the right-of-way distance being greater, the board approved a variance of 3.5 feet for a 46.5 foot distance from the right-of-way. The distance from the center of the road is 2.4 feet short of the requirement at 87.6 feet.
Robert Grant, an attorney with Pike Legal Group PLLC, representing AT&T, noted the guy wires of the cell tower comply with the setback requirements. “For the record, we don’t believe it’s a correct reading of the ordinance that it applies to this tower because this tower is not a building with a roof and four walls that people reside in, when you look at the definitions. So, we did file this under protest, with reservation with rights of appeal.”
Even at that, Grant made the case for the variance, and the safety of the tower at that location. He said the tower itself is 180 feet from the nearest property line, and the issue is just with one guy wire anchor to the southwest. Grant said the anchor will be surrounded by chain link fencing, and there will also be a fence line along the road that would provide additional safety.
Jonathon Snider of the law firm Dinsmore and Shohl LLP, representing SBA, urged the board to deny the variance. “There is no dispute that this guyed tower does indeed encroach on the setback; obviously that increases the risk of folks traveling around Highway 7. It’s just one more obstacle they have to deal with.”
Snider also questioned why AT&T isn’t building a lattice tower which he said “are sturdier and certainly has less of a footprint but is more expensive which is why AT&T doesn’t want to do that.”
He said another option would be to decrease the height of the guy tower which would decrease the radius of the guy wires and where they are located.
Mike Frazier said he was a County Commissioner when the ordinance for variances was written in the early 2000s. “That’s why we have variances for things like this that they can’t meet exactly.” Frazier said in terms of safety, he sees no concern with where the tower will be located.
Board member Darrell Ginn agreed, “Seems like we’re close to the setbacks. I don’t see where it’s a safety hazard myself.”
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