On July 12, the Mebane (NC) City Council unanimously approved a 199-foot tower special use permit request from TowerCom. The Mebane Enterprise reported that the tower will provide improved service to Mill Creek, NC residents and is planned near a predominantly Black neighborhood.
The tower site is situated on private land, considered a conservation area due to a stream running through the property. TowerCom plans to lease the land and construct the tower, which will serve both Verizon and DISH customers, reported the Enterprise.
To obtain the special use permit, TowerCom had to meet four special use requirements, including the following:
- Will not injure surrounding property values
- Will not present safety or welfare concerns
- Will be in harmony with the surrounding zoning
- Will be consistent with the city’s adopted plans
According to TowerCom’s attorney, Tom Johnson, the company adequately met the criteria and have gotten approval of the site from a number of national, state and local wildlife, environmental, cultural and historical agencies, such as the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, the NC State Historic Preservation Office, and National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA). Johnson told the Enterprise the tower fits into the requirements issued by Mebane By Design.
However, some residents voiced concerns over the tower. The Enterprise reported that residents are concerned with the project they just found out about in June. Concerns include health and safety, primarily “radiation emanating from it and the effects of the tower on their property values.”
“They said it’ll help everybody in the neighborhood, but we have, I don’t know, 12 people [against it],” said resident Curtis Bryant. “This thing has been going on, they said, since 2016, but we didn’t know anything about it until they put the sign on the road in June.”
Other residents spoke out regarding decreased property values since homes will be within a quarter-mile of the site and questioned whether improved service was needed. “Why bring something that’s going to make people sick or devalue property?” resident Dr. Shirley Conyard asked. “No one wants to buy your property if it’s like that.”
Additionally, Tomeka Ward-Satterfield, a member of the newly-established Mebane Racial Equity Advisory Committee, petitioned the council to use a racial equity tool to make their decision. “I just encourage you all to not dismiss the racial overtones of this decision and use it as an opportunity to stand on some of the recent decisions and actions that you all have made to be very transparent about race and equity events,” Ward-Satterfield said.
Regarding health matters, Johnson assured the audience that the tower must operate within safe limits under FCC, state, and local regulations. He also noted that the council could not take into account potential health risks when making its decision.
“I think there’s a need for the tower, but I’m a little disappointed in the preliminary work done by [TowerCom], not meeting with the neighbors earlier,” Councilmember Tim Bradley said. “But I think that, based on criteria we have to decide on, we really don’t have any grounds to turn it down. So I will move to approve the special use request for the 199-foot tall non-stealth wireless communications tower.”