Balloon to go up 195 feet, height of group’s proposed cell tower

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
SPENCER ó A company looking to construct a cell tower outside town will stage a balloon test today to demonstrate the height to which the tower would rise.
The Berkley Group is seeking to construct the tower on property near the proposed High Rock Raceway. The tower site is 95 feet west of the Interstate 85 right of way and 400 feet from the southern edge of the raceway property, near Hackett Street.
Representatives of the Berkley Group will appear before Spencer’s Zoning Board of Adjustments Thursday night to ask for two things pertaining to the tower.
The first is a request for a conditional-use permit for its construction. The second is for a variance that would allow the tower to stand 195 feet tall.
Town ordinances typically allow cell towers to be built only to 100 feet.
About 8 this morning, a large balloon will fly from the site of the proposed tower. It will remain aloft all day at 195 feet, allowing residents of the area to gauge how a tower at that height might affect them.
“It’ll be up and at ’em at 8 a.m.,” said Bonnie Newell, a spokeswoman for the Berkley Group. “It’ll be there all day.”
She said the tower would serve the track’s spectators and racers, as well as Spencer residents and motorists traveling the interstate.
Newell said officials with the Berkley Group consider the tower’s location “perfect,” but said the zoning board’s decision to grant the variance for a 195-foot tower is imperative to its construction.
“It just doesn’t work at 100 feet,” Newell said. “At 100 feet, we wouldn’t proceed.”
She said a tower that short would result in “major issues” pertaining to wireless coverage for the track and 911 calls for motorists traveling the interstate.
“It’s just so critical,” Newell said of the 95-foot extension.
Whether or not permission for the extension is granted remains to be seen. Dustin Wilson, Spencer’s land manager, said an in-house committee that makes recommendations to the zoning board has recommended that the variance not be granted.
Board members will hear the matter when they meet at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Wilson said letters sent to about 20 property owners with land near the site of the proposed tower has prompted no response.
“We haven’t heard from anyone upset (about the proposed tower),” Wilson said.
Dave Risdon, the track’s president, said that while the tower’s construction isn’t a High Rock project, he and other track proponents back its construction. He said he plans to attend Thursday meeting of the zoning board.
“I’m planning to speak,” Risdon said.
He said the land where the proposed tower would be constructed is property on which High Rock has an option to purchase. Risdon said the land should become property of the racetrack within coming weeks.
He said he supported the tower’s construction because it would allow for excellent cell phone coverage and wireless Internet access to the track.
Risdon said that if the tower is constructed and High Rock purchases the property, it’ll be leased to the Berkley Group.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or