Mount Ulla couple still trying to get radio broadcast tower on property

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
A Mount Ulla couple has renewed efforts to get a radio broadcast tower built on their property.
And the county has rejected an effort to get around the conditional use permit process.
An attorney for Richard L. and Dorcas Parker is seeking a zoning permit to construct a radio broadcast tower on their property with equipment for police, fire and first responder communications.
The attorney, Christy E. Wilhelm of the Concord firm of Hartsell & Williams, contends that the project is exempt from the conditional use permit process because it is for public safety use.
In November 2006, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners voted to deny a permit for a 1,350-foot-tall broadcast tower on the Parker property to serve Davidson County Broadcasting.Gig Hilton, president of the broadcast company which operates 94.1 FM in Lexington, appealed the county’s decision. In September 2007, a three-judge panel of the N.C. Court of Appeals upheld the denial, saying the county acted appropriately in its decision that the tower would present a hazard to a nearby private airstrip, Miller Airpark.
The attorney for the Parkers said they wish to donate broadcasting space on the tower for use by Rowan County to improve communications system capability for western Rowan.
During the Board of Commissioners retreat last month, Rob Robinson, telecommunications director, told commissioners the Parker site would not provide the needed coverage for west Rowan.
Planning Director Ed Muire has rejected the Parkers’ effort to get a building permit without going through the conditional use process.
In a letter to the Parkers, Muire wrote that he has “determined that construction and use of the radio broadcast tower and antenna is not exempt from the county’s conditional use permitting procedure …”
Muire noted the provision of the county ordinance exempts only communication towers, not broadcast towers with public safety antenna attached.
“Mr. and Mrs. Parker must obtain a conditional use permit from Rowan County prior to construction and use of the radio broadcast tower and antenna. This ensures, among other things, that the impact of the tower on public health, safety and welfare is considered,” Muire wrote.
The Parkers have 30 days to appeal Muire’s decision to the Rowan County Zoning Board of Adjustments.
The effort to locate a tower on the Parker property spurred heated opposition from residents of the Mount Ulla area.
In recent months, a Charlotte consultant working for Davidson Broadcasting has met with various county emergency officials, including volunteer fire departments, touting the potential benefits of the tower.
Anticipating another effort to secure a conditional use permit, County Attorney Jay Dees has advised county commissioners not to meet with Hilton or his consultants.