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 didnt speak.
Attorney Matthew Myers, who represents the Joneses and the Whitmans, argued that the investment company didnt 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, wasnt 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 dont 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 cant deny the request. He can only send it back for reconsideration.
Although the application didnt 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 arent sufficient, and it wouldnt make business sense for AT&T to pay the investment company to build a new tower if one wasnt 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 towers 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.