Council ok’s cell tower regulations

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 18, 2006

AHOSKIE – As technology advances by leaps and bounds, so does the need to properly regulate that growth.

The Ahoskie Town Council did exactly that here Tuesday.

During their regularly scheduled monthly meeting, the town’s elected leaders voted unanimously to change an ordinance dealing with the wireless telecommunications industry. Council members agreed that these companies play a vital role in the economic stability of the town, but they saw a need to ensure the health, safety and well-being of the citizens which they are elected to serve.

The change, as proposed by Town Manager Tony Hammond, came as a result of the fast pace in which telecommunication companies are growing.

“It is essential that the Town of Ahoskie set in place an ordinance that establishes regulations and guidelines for this growing market,” Hammond said.

After reviewing the town’s existing ordinance dealing with the installation of towers, Hammond found a surprising fact.

“All someone had to do was to simply meet the setback requirements in our zoning ordinance and they could erect a tower directly next door to a residence and there was nothing we could do about it,” Hammond said.

By adding new language to the ordinance, that scenario is no longer possible.

Now, wireless telecommunication companies looking to expand in the Ahoskie market will face a prioritized list of options when it comes to erecting towers or the placement of antennas.

“They will now have to look first at our water towers to place their antennas,” Hammond said. “If that is not within their plans and they seek to erect a tower, their second option is to do so on town-owned property.”

Leasing or selling that property is financially attractive to the town. So is leasing space for telecommunication antennas on Ahoskie’s water towers.

The set-up cost for water tower antennas would be non-existent for the town.

“The telecommunication company would be responsible for all costs,” Hammond noted.

He explained to Council members how the installation process would work if a company chose to lease space atop one of the town’s water towers. According to Hammond, the company places a halo at the top of the tower, to which the antennas are attached. Those halos come at a price tag in the $25,000-$30,000 range.

“The company that erects the halo is free to sub-lease available space to other companies,” Hammond explained. “That would be a way for them to recoup a portion of their investment to install the halo, but it’s also more money for the town as we would charge a lease fee for each antenna.”

Hammond said each halo could accommodate up to three antennas. As part of the ordinance package, Council members approved a $1,200 monthly lease fee per antenna.

Hammond said that fee was a bargain when compared to what other towns and cities are charging. He claimed some were charging upwards to $3,000 per month, but found that $1,500 was the norm.