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Rezoning approval given for cell tower

By Staff, 06/22/21 9:57 AM

PRESCOTT – Approval was given for the rezoning issue on Moore’s Hwy. concerning an AT&T cell tower.

This was done at a public hearing Monday night prior to the June meeting of the Prescott City Council.

The hearing lasted more than an hour with more than 20 people packed in the municipal building for it. The land in question was a 100×100 foot section of 31.86 acres owned by Robert Glass being rezoned from R1 to I1, or from residential to industrial. The idea is for AT&T to build a 240-foot cell tower on the section in question to help improve coverage in the community, though it won’t cover the entire area.

All present for the hearing were in favor of the tower being built, though the city had received several letters from landowners, most living elsewhere, opposing it. The naysayers claimed the tower would result in lowering of land values, higher traffic, increased pollution and health hazards from the RF radiation from the tower.

Greg Staggs, representing AT&T’s interest, said there’s been confusion about the tower. He said studies show there have been no health-related problems with cell towers, adding people have been using cell phones for more than 20 years without incident, and the proposed 5G tower  will be considered digital and would be like turning on a radio. He pointed out a person gets more radiation from a microwave than they can from this tower.

Staggs said AT&T has already put $50,000 into this project and is looking to invest $250,000 into the community in building the tower. The tower, he said, will be enclosed in a six-foot fence with three strands of barb wire on top. There will be no guy wires as the tower, if it falls, is designed to collapse down on itself – unless it’s hit by winds of 150 miles and hour or more. The advantages of the tower, he added, will be increased cell coverage and better service for the school district. “When AT&T puts it in, it will be 5G with fiber coverage,” he said. He told the council, and those gathered, the area needs increased coverage and the location of the tower is pretty much shielded from view because of trees.

He said if the tower is moved further south, AT&T won’t be able to provide the school with as good a coverage. He also pointed out AT&T works with FirstNet for emergency services, adding 90 percent of all 911 calls are made from cell phones. Staggs continued saying studies show having cell towers in an area actually increases land value.

In the midst of the hearing, Prescott Mayor Terry Oliver recognized Brian Glass, who was in attendance, as being named the Coach of the Year for all sports in Arkansas high school athletics.

Glass said everyone who went to the ceremony Saturday knew about the award but him, as he was going to be named Outstanding Track Coach of the Year. He said it was an honor, but is more a testament to the staff and student athletes.

The letters of opposition were read. They were from representatives of the Hopson family, Darrell Tidwell, William Sockwell III and Michael Flemons. They argued the tower would create health problems, add to pollution and increased traffic.

Tony Price, who lives in a mobile home on a section of the land in question, was in favor of the tower saying he has no cell service where he is and has no chance of getting internet. He said the pros of having the tower outweigh the cons.

Staggs said the tower is designed so it can add more services and carriers, such as Sprint and T-Mobile. He added the land has an electric fence, but AT&T is willing to install a gate if necessary. The tower will be inside a locked fence 24-7, he continued, with security lights and motion sensors.

Robert Glass said there are seven to nine acres of woods between the mobile home and Johnson Sports Complex and no houses. There are a couple of houses on the other side near the curve in Moores Hwy.and the tower will be about a quarter mile from Ridgewood. He said he’s planting pine trees there, too.

The hearing came to an end with Councilman Ivory Curry moving council members “vote their conscience”. However, this was reworded by City Clerk Robert Loe into a vote on the rezoning issue on Moore’s Highway, passing with a 7-1 vote.

This, though, isn’t the end of the issue. City Attorney Glenn Vasser will have to draw up an ordinance for the council’s approval for the July meeting, when the issue will be revisited. The ordinance must be approved before the tower can be constructed.