T-Mobile appeals county’s denial of Murrayville cell tower

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A photo taken from the New Haven subdivision, just west of the proposed tower site off Murrayville Road, shows an image of a cell tower superimposed over a balloon that was floated to show the proposal's height. The original photo of the balloon is below. Wilmington architecture firm LS3P Associates superimposed the photo, attorney John Wessell said.
A photo taken from the New Haven subdivision, just west of the proposed tower site off Murrayville Road, shows an image of a cell tower superimposed over a balloon that was floated to show the proposal’s height. Wilmington architecture firm LS3P Associates superimposed the photo.

A wireless company has appealed New Hanover County commissioners’ decision to deny a 150-foot cell phone tower that was proposed for the Murrayville area in the northern part of the county.

T-Mobile filed a petition last month in New Hanover County Superior Court that seeks judicial review of the decision and requests that the matter be sent back to commissioners to review. Commissioners denied a special use permit for a 150-foot tower in March.

Related story: Commissioners deny permit for 150-foot cell tower in Murrayville

A Charleston, South Carolina-based law firm sought the permit for a tower proposed to serve T-Mobile and Verizon in improving their wireless services, which representatives said would not be improved if their facilities were located on a nearby 90-foot tower.

Commissioners voted four votes to one to deny the request. In his motion to deny the request, Commissioner Rob Zapple said the cell tower was not “in harmony” with the residential area, which is a requirement to approve special use permits.

That tower currently serves AT&T, which has a facility at the top of it, making the next possible location for one of the other companies at a height of 75 feet, an attorney previously told the county’s planning board. But residents pointed to that tower and other factors as reasons why commissioners should deny the proposal.

Related story: Proposed cell tower draws opposition in Murrayville

In its appeal, T-Mobile claims commissioners did not consider any “competent, material or substantial” evidence presenting in opposition to the tower; only personal opinions and complaints from area residents.

Residents who spoke in a public hearing in February, which was continued from the planning board’s meeting in November, said those two requirements cannot be met for a tower that is just over 30 feet shy of the PPD building’s height in downtown Wilmington.

“It encroaches upon our viewscape, and it’s going to be there every single day moving forward,” said Matthew Brenneman. “It’s quite a scenic view across Smith Creek, which goes right through there. It’s a very nice area, and we chose to live here for that reason. There is a difference in choosing to live beside a gigantic tower vs. having one built on top of you and asked to live in its shadow.”

Commissioners Chairman Jonathan Barfield voted against the denial, saying that the tower would improve cellular and broadband connectivity for the entire community.

In its answer, New Hanover County denied T-Mobile’s allegations and asked that the appeal be denied.