Cell tower denial appealed to Superior Court

By Tom Joyce

May 14, 2014

DOBSON — A recent decision by the Surry County Planning Board to deny a cell tower placement on White Pines Country Club Road, Mount Airy, is being challenged.

In the wake of the planning board’s rejection of the request in a 4-3 vote on April 14, the company seeking to install the tower is appealing the decision to Surry Superior Court.

The case stems from a proposal to place the cell phone structure at 234 White Pines Country Club Road. American Towers, a Massachusetts-based company, wants to erect a 199-foot monopole telecommunications tower at that location, which drew concern from neighboring property owners when first announced.

They expressed opposition to the planning board, leading to that group’s decision to deny the tower placement at its April meeting.

However, the tower firm is exercising the right to take its case to a higher authority. Although the planning board is an advisory group to the Surry County Board of Commissioners, the appeal procedure involved is bypassing the commissioners — who will have no say in the outcome.

Under that procedure, appeals of decisions affecting conditional-use permits, which include cell tower placements, go directly to Superior Court, according to a spokeswoman for the county planning office. The commissioners only consider only rezoning matters, she explained.

This operates differently than Mount Airy city government, in which the commissioners are the next stop for developers or property owners challenging planning board decisions. Recent rezoning action by the city council that favored plans for a 60-unit apartment complex off South Franklin Road — which had been unanimously rejected by the planning board — is now being challenged in Superior Court by disgruntled neighbors.

On the county level, other planning board decisions have been appealed to that court in the past, but have been resolved before the court had to rule, the planning office spokeswoman said.

Notices Run

In the meantime, American Towers is repeating a required public-notification process regarding its plans for the cell tower at 234 White Pines Country Club Road, which is just west of North Andy Griffith Parkway and northwest of the city limits.

That procedure is aimed at making all affected parties aware of the proposal and allowing a chance for them to post any objections.

The tower structure would be unlit, with the facility including a 100-foot by 100-foot lease area and associated easements, along with a 30-foot buffer surrounding the lease area.

American Towers is seeking comments from all interested persons on any potential significant impact the proposed structure could have on the quality of the human environment pursuant to 47 C.F.R. Section 1.1307. It is a federal law that applies to actions with a potential for significant environmental effects.

Comments also can include possible impacts on historic or cultural resources that are listed or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Requests or comments should be limited to environmental and historic/cultural resource impact concerns, and must be received on or before May 30.

Interested persons may comment or raise environmental impact concerns regarding the proposed cell tower by filing a Request for Environmental Review with the FCC. The FCC strongly encourages all interested parties to make such filings online, following the instructions found at

Paper filings can be sent to: FCC Requests for Environmental Review, Attn: Ramon Williams, 445 12th St., SW, Washington, DC, 20554. The request also must be sent to American Towers, LLC, by e-mailing a copy to or by regular mail to: American Tower, 10 Presidential Way, Woburn, MA, 01801; Attn: Environmental Compliance.

The cell tower sought for White Pines Country Club Road is the third such proposal to surface since March. The others have been targeted for Hawks Road in the Lowgap area and Bismark Lane just outside Mount Airy.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.