Families fighting proposed cell phone tower in Juliette

awomack@macon.comMarch 6, 2014 

The fate of a proposed cellphone tower in Juliette rests in the hands of a Monroe County judge.

Foster Drive residents Robert and Gena Jones and Alton and Betty Whitman are suing Monroe County commissioners, contending that they abused their power in approving a conditional use permit application from Grovetown-based Barinowski Investment Co.

The proposed 250-foot tower would be built on Ponder-Trammell Road in northeast Monroe County. The tower would be built about 800 feet from the Whitmans’ property and 1,200 feet from the Joneses’ land.

Lawyers for the Juliette residents and the investment company presented arguments in Monroe County Superior Court on Thursday morning. Mike Dillon, who represents county commissioners, attended the hearing but didn’t speak.

Attorney Matthew Myers, who represents the Joneses and the Whitmans, argued that the investment company didn’t complete a full zoning application that meets the specifications of ordinances, and commissioners voted 3-2 to approve it anyway.

“We believe the commissioners abused their discretion in considering an incomplete application,” Myers said.

A required “co-location study,” detailing whether other towers in the area can accommodate antennae to fill coverage gaps, wasn’t included, he said. Two other towers are located less than 3 miles away, according to the plaintiffs’ complaint.

“Cell towers are, some would say, unsightly, and the requirement (of the ordinances) is so tower companies don’t go around arbitrarily placing these things,” Myers said.

Myers asked that Judge William A. Fears either deny the zoning request or send the matter back to commissioners.

Chase Ruffin, a lawyer representing Barinowski Investment Co., contended that the judge can’t deny the request. He can only send it back for reconsideration.

Although the application didn’t include a co-location study, it did include a report showing coverage gaps and how they would be filled. The report should be sufficient to meet zoning requirements and to be considered, Ruffin said.

The nearby towers aren’t sufficient, and it wouldn’t make business sense for AT&T to pay the investment company to build a new tower if one wasn’t needed, Ruffin said.

“Towers are very expensive,” he said.

Myers said the report is unsigned and shows AT&T towers but none from other companies.

The Monroe County Planning and Zoning Board unanimously denied the tower application on July 29, 2013, for further review by commissioners. Commissioners voted Sept. 10 to approve the application after the investment company made verbal concessions to reduce the tower’s footprint. Those included shortening it to 250 feet, eliminating guy wires, dimming tower lighting and moving an access road, Myers said.

Fears asked for proposed orders from attorneys before deciding the case.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service