Radio station owners seek tower

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2011

By Karissa Minn
MOUNT ULLA ó After first trying more than five years ago, a radio station owner will appear before the Rowan County Board of Commissioners once again seeking a permit to allow a radio tower to be built in Mount Ulla.
The board will schedule a quasi-judicial public hearing regarding the request at Mondayís meeting. County planning staff has recommended holding the hearing July 19, with continuation until July 20 as necessary.
Gig Hilton, president of Davidson County Broadcasting, applied for a conditional use permit in May 2010 for the construction of a 1,200-foot broadcast tower. It would be built on property owned by Richard L. and Dorcas Parker in Mount Ulla.
In November 2005, commissioners voted to deny a permit for a 1,350-foot broadcast tower on the Parkersí property to serve the same company.
ěThe main difference between this one and the one reviewed in 2005 is that the tower is 150 feet shorter,î said County Planning Director Ed Muire.
The new application also includes adjoining property owners Maurice and Mary Parker, Muire said, because part of the proposed fall zone for the tower would be on their land.
Davidson County Broadcasting says the new tower would increase the coverage area of its WWLV station in Lexington, serve more people and reduce interference.
Hilton appealed the countyís 2005 decision, but a three-judge panel of the N.C. Court of Appeals upheld the denial in September 2007, and so did the N.C. Supreme Court.
County Manager Gary Page said he doesnít know why the applicants chose to try again.
ěMaybe the climate is different because of the economy… but the biggest change has been the makeup of the board,î Page said.
The only sitting commissioners who were on the board when it denied the permit are current Chairman Chad Mitchell and Jim Sides, who cast the lone dissenting vote.
Sides was re-elected last year after a two-year absence, taking the seat of Mount Ulla resident Tina Hall. Before Hall became a commissioner, she had publicly thanked the board for denying the permit.
Several other nearby residents spoke against the tower during a public hearing, sharing concerns about its safety and appearance.
Commissioners decided after 14 hours of testimony that the tower would present a safety hazard to a nearby private airstrip, Miller Airpark.
In the new application, Davidson County Broadcasting says it plans to submit evidence to the contrary and show that the tower would not create hazardous traffic or air safety conditions.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has determined that the proposed tower, like the previous one, poses ěno hazardî and will not adversely affect air safety, the application states.
Davidson County Broadcasting says it will show that the FAA considered Miller Airpark in its study and would have issued a ěno hazardî determination even if it were a public use airport.
Through expert testimony, the company also plans to show that the tower would not have an adverse impact on Miller Airparkís existing traffic patterns and pilots would know where it is.
The Parkers previously tried unsuccessfully to bypass the county altogether.
They filed actions in the Rowan Superior Court in August 2009 and September 2010 arguing that a conditional use permit is not required for a radio tower. But last month, those actions were dismissed as invalid due to procedural errors.
The Parkers also asked Mooresville to annex 18 acres of their 200-acre farm, but the townís board of commissioners rejected the request in March 2010 amid concerns about providing adequate services.
Calls to Richard L. and Dorcas Parker, Gig Hilton and Davidson County Broadcastingís attorney were not returned Friday.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.