Mebane planning board approved a rezoning request to allow a 195-foot tall monopole cell tower to be constructed at 4449 Landi Lane north of the city.
The proposal drew opposition from two neighbors, both black, who opposed the tower and suggested that their lower-income, minority neighborhood had been targeted for the tower. They contended that the tower was potentially unsafe and would lower their property values.
“What you put it in your back yard?” resident Arthur Holt repeatedly asked the company’s representative, Raleigh lawyer Tom Johnson, who is white.
Johnson had explained that for Verizon cell customers, service in the area is “unreliable” and often results in “an excessive [number of] dropped calls.”
Johnson also attributed the increasing number of people working from home as a contributing factor to the growing popularity of cell phone use.
Dish Network also hopes to have a spot on the tower, Johnson explained.
While Johnson acknowledged that the monopole was tall, he said it would “not have a large footprint” in the area. He showed several simulated photographs that showed it in the distance.
But several neighbors who live on Landi Lane were not impressed.
Holt and one resident, Lydia Paylor, who sent written comments and questions, also focused on what they considered to be the danger of “radiation exposure.” However, Johnson emphasized that under both federal and state law, the safety of the cell towers is not to be a local consideration inasmuch as it is overseen and handled by federal and state regulatory agencies.
Curtis Bryant and Arthur Holt raised questions about having the cell tower near their homes along Landi Lane. Holt, in particular, questioned whether their area had been singled out because it is a black neighborhood.
Johnson emphasized that the decision was based on finding a location that would be best for “filling the hole” of service.
It was not mentioned during the hearing, but The Alamance News has confirmed that the current property owner who would be selling to Towercom if the special use permit for the tower is approved is also black.
The final vote to approve the cell tower was 4-1 with Gale Pettiford as the sole dissenter. Supporting the permit were chairman Edward Tulauskas, Judy Taylor, Lori Oakley, and ETJ member Larry Teague.
The city council will take up the request at its July 12 meeting.