On Tuesday, Chad Williams, 29, asked the Cobb County Board of Commissioners to grant a special land-use permit to install a 150-foot wireless communication tower on the property on Hurt Road, west of South Cobb Drive off Concord Road.
The board voted 3-2 to delay the decision by 60 days, with Commissioners Helen Goreham and Lisa Cupid opposed. If approved, the proposed tower would be erected in Cupid’s district.
The tower would include an antenna and be able to accommodate six carriers. AT&T has spurred the project, with T-Mobile and Verizon also expressing interest, said John Moore, the attorney presenting the case to the board.
Cupid told the board the cell tower would have a significant adverse effect and change the aesthetic character of the suburban area surrounding the farm.
“It is not expected that you would look outside your home and find an industrial looking tower in a residential area,” Cupid said.
Joseph Atkins, the assistant county attorney, advised the board that the decision to place a cell tower must be based on if the area does not already have adequate service. By federal law, the board is not to consider possible health effects, he added.
Chairman Tim Lee told the board he wants a meeting open to the public scheduled for January to delve into federal laws about zoning for wireless communication towers, which transmit cellphone calls and information to mobile devices like iPads and smartphones.
A family farm in jeopardy
Williams was raised on his family’s farm off Hurt Road, and it is the only home he has ever known.
The land was purchased by his grandfather, G.B. Williams, in 1949 for $5,000, after he spent time working the farm as a sharecropper during The Great Depression, Williams said.
Now the G.B. Farm has a lake, stables that house 50 horses and acres of woods with wild turkeys, ducks and deer.
Williams told the board that he has made large investments in upgrading the lake and placing trails along the property for the benefit of the community.
Now, Williams said he needs an influx of money to pay property taxes and high liability insurance for the activities at the farm, including birthday parties hosted for Cobb children.
If the special land-use permit is not granted, Williams said he would have to cut down the trees, drain the lake and “put hundreds of hundreds of homes” on the land.
Williams said, his farm is the fifth largest undeveloped tract of land in Cobb, and he receives requests by developers almost weekly.
But Williams said he wants to protect the land to provide a special place for future generations.
In 2011, Williams said his family bought about 16 acres between their existing property and a nearby subdivision that had been considered for a 35-home development.
“We wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize the beauty of the property,” Williams said.
Residents: Not in my back yard
Alexander Place, a subdivision of homes in the $175,000 to $200,000 range, sits more than half a mile to the east of where the tower would be positioned.
On Tuesday, a petition with 48 signatures against the tower was presented to the board, including that of Herbert Jones.
Jones told the board he is a practicing physician, but his concern is not if the tower will cause health issues, but the perception from potential home buyers that “a tower with a flashing beacon” has adverse health effects.
Jones told the board that society is “beholden” to cellphone companies that are stealing our communities’ beauty.
“Why are we participating in the decimation of our community?” Jones said.
On Tuesday, Cupid told the board she toured the area and met with neighbors, and the outcome of that research is why she was not able to support the application.
In fact, Cupid wanted to deny the application, but only received support from Goreham.
Goreham pointed out that no neighbors reported insufficient service in the area, so adding the tower would not be an improvement.
Cupid also told the board that postponing the decision will only “delay the inevitable,” and nothing will change the mind of the neighbors against the tower.
Marsha Thomas, of Alexander Place, said the tower could be a lightning rod or could topple if there were high gusts of wind from a tornado.
“The idea of a tower being behind me is really disgusting,” Thomas said.
Williams said he was disappointed the special land-use permit was not granted at Tuesday’s meeting. He pointed out that the tower would be positioned on the northwest corner of his property, a half mile from the nearest road, 350 feet away from the nearest property line, and the “fall zone” would include only trees.
AT&T would not spend $100,000 if there was not a need for it, Williams added.
Moore presented the board with 19 signatures of support from neighbors in an adjacent subdivision, including two homes that are located on either side of the access road for the tower.
“This is a great example of a tower that is well screened by existing vegetation,” said Harris B. Simpson of Greystone Valuation Services, a professional real estate appraisal and counseling firm headquartered in Atlanta.