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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Milton council denies cell towers.

By Jonathan Copsey; Appen Newspapers

MILTON – In what is hoped to be a final decision, Milton's council has denied two of the three proposed T-Mobile cell phone towers in the city.

Proposed towers on Hopewell Road and Mountain Road were both denied by the city partially because required documentation was not turned in because, said representative Shawn Blassingill, it was company practice to finish them after approval; Milton required them to get approval. The towers were also described as being "inconsistent" with Milton's rural nature and just too big to be near neighborhoods, said the council in their denial. T-Mobile's third request – for a tower on New Providence Road – was approved by council, but with modifications.

The height was lowered from 150 feet to 100 feet. This was over the objections of nearby landowners of the Lake Providence subdivision. Council's reasoning was that, since the tower would be placed next to existing power lines in a large, 50-acre parcel of land, there would be little effect on property values, if the tower could be seen at all. Staff had denied the request for the same reasons as the other two towers.

A motion to deny the application fell short, with Council member Joe Longoria proposing the alternative to accept the application but with a shortened tower to, in essence, put the ball back in T-Mobile's court. If the company could live with the revised plans, everybody wins. But if they cannot, then they will pull their request. The council typically revises zoning plans.

John Bogino, the owner of Seven Gables Farms, where one of the proposed towers was to go, said he was disappointed by the community's anger at his desire to make money from his own property.

"When I started this, I didn't know we would get into this," said Bogino, who says he wanted the tower to help pay his tax bills. "If given the choice between Seven Gables as a farm with a tower on it or a subdivision, I'd want the farm. That's what Milton is all about."

His farm is across from the Saddlewood Springs subdivision, which mounted the largest opposition to the tower. They argued it would harm their property values and, worse, the rural nature of the city, all because the company wanted to increase profit margins.

"There would be no way to hide or disguise the size of this tower," said resident Kay Norvell, who would have a clear view of the tower from her front porch. "I don't think a 15-story commercial cell tower... is what Milton has in mind for protecting the aesthetics and character for future inhabitants."

T-Mobile presented a real estate agent who argued such towers do not affect property values; the residents (including another agent) refuted this claim.

Longoria said, as the council denied the Seven Gables tower, that it all came down to height.

"If this was a 12-foot tower, we wouldn't be having this discussion," he said. At roughly 150 feet each, the signal towers would have dwarfed anything in the vicinity.

The rural nature Milton prides itself on is what has necessitated the move by T-Mobile for large towers. With a population spread out over a wide area, with little to no commercial property to co-locate on, the company had no option but to build towers. And the bigger the towers, the less that need to be built.

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