Zoning board nixes cell tower plans

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The Monroe County Zoning Board of Appeals did not pass a proposal for a new cell tower in rural Columbia at its meeting last Wednesday, effectively nixing those plans for the time being. 

The board tied 2-2, with one member abstaining due to a relationship with someone near the proposed tower, on whether to allow the AT&T-owned tower, which would have been located at 1332 Valmeyer Road on property owned by Advantage Self-Storage in Columbia. 

Monroe County Zoning Administrator Chris Voelker said the issue came down to an interpretation of county zoning code. 

“It says no public office or principal repair or storage facility shall be maintained in connection with the site,” he explained. “My interpretation is the site is the whole parcel, and there is a storage facility there. “(AT&T’s) interpretation is the site is just the little site that they’re leasing. My opinion is the code says you can’t have a cell tower and a storage facility on the same site.” 

The proposed tower first came to Monroe County almost a year ago when AT&T representative Matt Schlichter of Network Real Estate told the county board in November the new tower was needed to ensure good cellular service across Columbia. 

After several nearby residents complained the over 155-foot-tall monopole structure with a blinking red light at its apex would be an eyesore, Schlichter said the location would best suit customer needs. 

The county board advised AT&T to find another location. 

The commissioners then held a public hearing in August about the tower, where it received complaints identical to those presented in November. 

The county board decided to move the matter to the zoning board. 

Now that the zoning board has failed to pass it, AT&T could look for another location or work with Columbia itself to negotiate putting the tower up in a different spot. 

“That location is dropped,” Voelker emphasized. 

Alternatively, the company could file a lawsuit to get a court ruling on the proper interpretation of the county’s zoning code. 

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