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Decatur City Planning Commission defers request for a new cell tower near Maediris Drive

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Decatur City Planning Commission defers request for a new cell tower near Maediris Drive

Attorney Ivy N. Cadle speaks to the Planning Commission on Sept. 12, 2023. Photo by Angela Walker

By Angela Walker, contributor

Decatur, GA — The Decatur Planning Commission at its Sept. 12 meeting deferred a request for a new cell tower due to neighborhood concerns.

Attorney Ivy Cadle with Baker Donelson law firm spoke on behalf of CitySwitch, a company that develops and manages cellular towers. 

CitySwitch wants to construct a new wireless telecommunications tower on the railroad right-of-way, a property owned by CSX Transportation, Inc. After a lengthy discussion and safety concerns expressed by neighbors and several members of the commission, Cadle was asked to address all concerns and return to next month’s meeting. 

During Cadle’s presentation, he shared CitySwitch’s reason for asking for a variance on the proposed cellular tower set-back requirement.

“The standards say that a telecommunication tower must be set back at least 200 feet, or the height of the tower, whichever is greater,” Cadle said. “We are asking for a variance from that because the tower would stand 150 foot tall, with a 10-foot lightning rod, and within a 60 by 50-foot compound.” 

The tower would be located within the CSX industrial zoning district and accessed via Maediris Drive in Decatur.

“A 6-foot tall, anti-climb, barbed wire fence would be around the tower and designed pursuant to your ordinances,” Cadle said. “We would also remove some of the trees, but overall, we still have a fair number of trees to shield the tower’s base.”

He added, “The tower would have four cellular antennas and would increase home and business broadband coverage significantly,”

A neighbor who lives near the proposed tower was concerned about what would happen if the tower fell.

“Our primary residence will be directly affected by this proposal,” the resident said. “We have some significant concerns about the fall zones and the safety to our property and family.”

He continued, “[the tower] would be a direct line of sight from our backyard, and I would like more information so that we can have some peace of mind.”

Another resident, Linda Erhard, believes that the tower would have negative impacts on the neighborhood, including before and during construction, the green space around the area, and would negatively affect home values.

Erhard suggested another location for the tower, the corner of the railroad tracks about .6 miles north of the proposed location.

Cadle said, “The nearest structure is about 150 feet away.”

He presented a letter from an engineering firm.

“Should the communications facility collapse, it will collapse within the compound, and we believe it would be safe,” Cadle said.

Cadle also asked for a variance on the requirement of having a minimum of 10-feet in width landscape strip around the perimeter of the tower site. The variance request is due to several unique factors, including “the odd shape of the right railroad right away and CSX’s need to periodically maintain and trim the vegetative buffer.”

He added, “we are trying to find the least obtrusive space that we can find.” 

Cadle says CitySwitch commissioned multiple studies across the Southeast that show cellular towers do not lower property values.

Commission chair, Harold Buckley asked, “what about the coverage for the safety telecommunications network, did you all look at other locations along the railroad that might serve as a suitable alternative site?”

Buckley added “This Commission is not dismissing the potential for the tower, but there are some questions and concerns.’

Other concerns include:

— The structure that will be used to make this fence un-climbable, 

— Noise questions, particularly relative to any generator on the site

— Questions about the tower structure and fall zone

— Questions about landscaping and landscape maintenance

— Questions about neighborhood outreach

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