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Carolina Beach To Consider New Cell Tower Ordinance; 150' Tall Tower

Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture: An application has been submitted to the Town of Carolina Beach to locate a 150' cell tower at 202 South Dow Road. The Planning Department is also bringing forth a new cell tower ordinance for the Town Council to consider at their July 10th, meeting.

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CAROLINA BEACH - An application has been submitted to the Town of Carolina Beach to locate a 150' cell tower at 202 South Dow Road. The Planning Department is also bringing forth a new cell tower ordinance for the Town Council to consider at their July 10th, meeting. The Planning Commission will consider an  application for the Dow Road tower submitted by
Optima Towers IV at their July 12 meeting. At the Council's June 12, meeting Planning Director Ed Parvin explained, "Historically we've had approvals for cell antennas on water tanks and buildings, for example Harbor Oaks, and our water tank. Recently we've had an application for a stand-alone tower. It's unique for Carolina Beach. We've also got an ordinance in the works."
Parvin explained, "The ordinance is actually a little bit ahead of the game of the conditional use permit (CUP) application. But the conditional use permit will be going forward to the July 12, Planning Board meeting. If the ordinance stays on track, it will be adopted July 10th" by Town Council.
Parvin explained, "Once the new ordinance is in place, that would be what the provider would have to go by. The dilemma now is, do we tell the applicant now that he needs to meet the new ordinance which is not adopted yet or do we tell the provider that we are going to take you through the whole process under the existing ordinance."
Town Manager Tim Owens warned the Council to reserve comments of opinion on cell towers since there is a pending application for a conditional use permit. He said, "We have a proposed telecommunications ordinance that may jump ahead of a CUP. It's on that track now. Or you could say let's hold up on it or make an affective date after the CUP hearing" on the tower.
Parvin said, "There are some advantages of making the affective date after the CUP gets processed under the current ordinance in that you can put conditions on that CUP when it comes forward, basically the applicant is not representing a specific provider or carrier" like Verizon or Sprint.
He said, "Verizon or Sprint would have to come back and get approval under the new ordinance before that tower could be built. Essentially it would have to be another approval before the tower was built even if the approval goes forward under our current ordinance."
Parvin explained, "Making that time when the ordinance goes in affect at a later date could be an advantage."
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth asked that if the new ordinance is adopted and a tower is built, would a provider wishing to locate antennas on that tower have to come back to Council for approval?
Parvin explained, "Depending on how the ordinance is written they would at a minimum have to go through the new requirements of the ordinance we are looking at now and those new requirements are fairly stringent."
Owens explained, "We are trying to encourage co-location" on other existing structures, "As opposed to a bunch of individual towers. Our current ordinance speaks to that somewhat, but not as comprehensively as the new ordinance. Currently we have carriers on our water tower and they seem to be providing adequate service with Verizon and U.S. Cellular. Verizon does a good job, I don't know about U.S. Cellular. Those are the two on our water tower. We would want to encourage co-location maybe on the Marriott or wherever. Somewhere that's not a telecommunications tower. That's what we are trying to encourage here."
Owens said the new ordinance would call for documentation that shows a need for a freestanding tower.
Shuttleworth explained, "Have you looked at any of the other communities or talked to any of the actual providers because we historically have terrible coverage on the Island. Cell coverage on the Island is terrible and with 3-G and 4G technologies coming out people are sucking up more bandwidth. There are people on the Island that are in that business to provide telecommunications."
He said, "I wouldn't want to come up with an ordinance just because we want to co-locate them that doesn't allow a service to be provided."
Town Attorney Lawrence Craige said the Town is working with a consultant to put together a new ordinance based on new laws. He explained, "That new ordinance does provide... for a streamlined process for a carrier to locate on an existing tower. In other words that carrier does not have to come before council, that carrier can get approved by the Town building inspector. The new ordinance proposed by the consultant does have a clear and convincing evidence standard which is very high for the need for that carrier. In addition... it allows the Town to set up a fee schedule that any applicant is aware of and that fee schedule can be used to cover the cost of the consultant instead of the Town incurring additional fees. And the applicant will have to show the Town that there is need for that additional cell phone carrier."
Councilman Lonnie Lashley asked if there was any chance for lawsuits stemming from the new ordinance.
Craig said, "The existing conditional use permit, that applicant does not have any rights at this time. The applicant will fall under the ordinance depending on when it's
adopted and the affective date of the ordinance."
Council member Sarah Friede asked if there was a chance she could get coverage that wouldn't drop 50 calls a day.
Owens said, "It's a policy decision. We are on track for this ordinance to jump ahead of a CUP application. If you're ok with that, that person would have to fall in line with what the new ordinance is. If you're not ok with that, then there are things that could be done to prolong either the adoption of that ordinance or set an affective date that is further out than the CUP application."
Owens said, "If you're ok with us jumping the applicant and knowing that he has to come under that ordinance then that's what we will proceed down. We will notify the applicant of that and he can make his arrangements for it."
Owens said the applicant is aware of the consulting firm the Town is working with and, "They know each and are very aware of the" new ordinance.
The Council was given options. The first is to make the applicant meet the new ordinance. The second option is to make the new ordinance affective after the applicant is approved and meet the current ordinance.
Parvin said in that case, providers wanting to locate on the tower would have to meet the requirements of the new ordinance anyway. 
The Council voted to adopt the second option. Councilman Bob Lewis said the Council would still have the flexibility with the conditional use permit to establish conditions prior to approval under the existing ordinance.
Mayor Ray Rothrock and Council members Sarah Friede, Lonnie Lashley and Bob Lewis voted in favor. Councilman Shuttleworth voted no.
The Planning Meeting is set for July 12, at 7PM at Town Hall in the Council meeting room.