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Planning Board discusses FM radio tower for Livingstone College

By Amanda Raymond

amanda.raymond@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY – Livingstone College may soon have an FM radio tower on campus.

A special-use permit to allow an FM radio transmission tower at 800 W. Thomas St. went before the Salisbury Planning Board on Tuesday.

The tower would be 100 feet high, and part of it would be attached to a 25-foot building on the property. The tower would be built behind the building on the campus’ side of the property.

The tower would be used as a student-operated broadcast station as part of a larger communications program at Livingstone. The station would reach about a seven-mile radius from the college.

Though the applicants would have to adhere to the general three requirements for obtaining a special-use permit, there was some confusion on which additional standards would apply to an FM radio tower. The closest guidelines for a radio tower were the requirements for a wireless telecommunication tower.

The three general requirements include meeting the principles and specifications of the ordinance and any land use plans, being “visually and functionally compatible to the surrounding area,” and assuring public health, safety and welfare without lowering surrounding property values.

The applicants presenting the case were Lee Simmons, a consulting engineer retained by Livingstone, and Justin Walker, communications project manager.

Board member Randy Reamer said it would be important to prove to the City Council that the structure would not hurt property values of the surrounding neighbors.

“Most importantly, you’ve got to have some evidence that people around there aren’t going to be offended by looking at it. Probably not, but it’s up to you to come forth with evidence that it’s not going to be offensive to look at,” Reamer said.

Simmons said there won’t be lights on the tower. After a question from board member Patricia Ricks, he said the tower will not interfere with other radio stations.

Later during the meeting, board member Thomasina Paige said she does not think neighbors would be bothered by the tower.

“I really think it will get some support from the community,” she said.

Board member Bill Wagoner said the applicants will have to be able to tell the City Council whether there is an existing facility that Livingstone could use that could provide the same service.

“Before saying OK to a new tower, is there an existing wireless telecommunications facility or tower that could provide the service that you’re asking for?” Wagoner asked.

Reamer asked if Livingstone could use the WSTP radio tower.

Simmons said it is possible to use that tower but that it might not be affordable for the college to lease the tower. If that station were to close, the college would be without a tower.

Simmons said the college wants to have the tower on its campus so it can have more control over it.

Reamer also asked what would happen if the tower fell. Simmons said he has never seen a tower fall over; they usually crumble and fall straight down.

Preston Mitchell, Development Services manager, asked how the college will keep students or others from climbing the tower.

With previous towers, Simmons said, a 6-foot-high chain-link fence has been built around the base of the structure with razor wire on top to discourage climbing.

Chairman Bill Burgin and Mitchell both agreed that proving that the structure won’t negatively affect property values may be the toughest standard to meet.

A public notice will be sent to owners of surrounding properties before the item goes before the City Council.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.

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