Friday, August 12, 2022

Retirement-community expansion forces need for new cell tower in Porters Neck

At&T, Verizon and T-Mobile likely will soon relocate their antennae from a water tower in the Davis Community to a freestanding monopole tower on adjacent land. (Port City Daily/Courtesy New Hanover County)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Following the approved expansion last year of the Davis Community, a retirement complex in Porters Neck, mobile providers needed new turf. The water tower currently on the land houses antennae for AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. With its removal planned amid the construction, soon to take place at the site, the owner has leased an adjacent 12-acre parcel to a company that builds and manages cellular towers. 

TowerCo 2013, LLC submitted an application for the construction of a 150-foot monopole-style cell tower with three carrier antennae and additional space for a fourth. Karen Kimmerite, an attorney for the company, said constructing the tower was imperative to preserving and improving cell service in the Porters Neck area. 

“The only reason why we’re here with a new cell tower application is because we have to find a solution for the situation, in which the water tank is being removed,” Kimmerite told the New Hanover County Planning Board last Thursday. 

The Davis Community was established in 1966. In June 2020, the board of commissioners approved its expansion into a neighboring 18-acre parcel, which eventually will lead to the construction of a four-story, 150-unit residential building and 32 assisted living duplexes. 

“This affects AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile,” Kimmerite said. 

The applicants proposed to limit the construction area to a 60-by-60-foot square within the 12 acres of Davis land they have available. The lease between TowerCo and the landowning company, Cornelia Nixon Davis, Inc, was included in the application packet, but with the financial terms of the arrangement redacted. 

“I don’t think anyone’s ever looked at the skyline and said, ‘The only thing that’s missing is a 150-foot metal pole,’” said planning board member Jordy Rawl during discussion. 

Kimmerite assured him the substantive buffer and minimal footprint of the tower would help shield nearby residents from its view. 

TowerCo conceptualized the structure at an angle to avoid wetlands on the property, which is land leased from Cornelia Nixon Davis, Inc. (Port City Daily/Courtesy New Hanover County)

Planning board member Jeffrey Petroff pressed TowerCo on their wetlands-avoidance strategy. 

“I felt like the remaining part of that property was all wetlands — it was really a low draw that kind of outlet-ed that way,” he recalled during the meeting. “I’m a little surprised that that is not the case, that there are uplands there.” 

The representative from TowerCo responded that minimal fill will be required for the project, and that plans to dodge wetlands were run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before the presentation.

Kimmerite added that AT&T signed a 25-year contract with the Department of Commerce in 2017, “to build the first nationwide wireless network for America’s first responders,” called “FirstNet.” 

The broadband network designed specifically for first responders would have antennae space within the proposed cell tower, Kimmerite said. 

The application was recommended unanimously and will be considered at a later meeting of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners. 

“It is unfortunate that it’s so unsightly,” said chairman Paul Boney at the meeting, “but I think the majority of the population now carries a cellphone.”

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