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Cellphone carriers want 7 new towers in PTC, may get none

Three major cellphone carriers have identified seven areas of Peachtree City where they would like to add new towers, six of which are in residential neighborhoods, but they may not get any.

A review of those areas by city staff indicates there are precious few places in those areas that might possibly qualify as a site under city zoning ordinances.

And it may turn out that there are no potential cell tower sites in some of the areas, Acting Community Development Director David Rast told the city’s Planning Commission Monday night.

Plus, most of the sites are owned by either the city or the Fayette County Board of Education.

It takes roughly six acres of land to make room for a new cell tower, Rast said. Also, per city ordinance, the fenced compound at the base of the tower cannot be within 200 feet of any residential property line at a bare minimum.

“Some of these areas, just looking at them, it’s going to be very difficult to locate a tower based on our current zoning,” Rast explained.

Later, Rast noted that representatives for Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T said if they had a site available in the area they would file a tower application with the city.

“The thing is, sites aren’t available because the parcels in their search rings are owned by the city,” Rast said. “Just because a site is there does not require the city to approve a tower on the site.”

Rast presented the seven areas identified by the three cell providers, adding that each wants to build a monopole structure instead of the more typical “lattice” structure seen around the city now.

The carriers also want to stay at or below the 200-foot height which requires a certain type of lighting per rules of the Federal Aviation Administration, Rast explained.

The areas were identified by staff based on the “holes” in the carriers’ coverage as it exists now, Rast explained. The goal of working with multiple carriers is to try and minimize the number of new towers in the city’s future.

No specific sites have been identified where a new tower could be erected, but city staff will be working on that process in coming weeks, Rast said.

Three of the seven tower areas were identified by two cell companies as sites they would like to add to their network. The other four were sites identified by only one cell company, staff explained.

• Area #1 is near The Summit, Rockspray and The Estates subdivisions in southeastern Peachtree City. The only parcels large enough in this area to accommodate a cell tower would be Oak Grove Elementary School and the Braelinn park.

• Area #2 is located near the Clover Reach, Braelinn Green and Center Green subdivisions. There is a significant amount of city-owned open space here but a large amount of wetlands could perhaps preclude a cell tower in the area. Also nearby are the former Water and Sewer Authority Flat Creek treatment plant, now mothballed, and the city’s police station.

• Area #3 is located near the Shadowood, Groveland, Fountain Head, Spyglass Hill and Fernwood subdivisions. There may not be any parcels to locate a tower here based on the required size and zoning restrictions.

• Area #4 is near the intersection of Ga. Highway 54 and Peachtree Parkway and includes the Tinsley Mill condominiums, the Flat Creek golf course and Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran Church. It is possible that the golf course might have a site that could meet the city’s cell tower requirements, Rast said.

• Area #5 is located near Golf View and Flat Creek Road, near the Spooner Ridge, Bellenden, Windalier Ridge and Rolling Green subdivisions. Potential sites for a cell tower could include Blue Smoke Park or a portion of the Flat Creek golf course.

• Areas #6 and #7 are both located off Ga. Highway 74 on the north end of the city, near the Carmichael Hemperly Funeral Home and also St. Paul Lutheran Church. The areas overlap each other to a small degree and potential cell tower sites in the area include Kedron Elementary School and the Kedron Fieldhouse and Aquatic Center.

The three carriers that gave input to the city on the possible future tower locations are Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T, Rast said. Two other notable carriers did not participate: Sprint and Clear Wireless.

“We know Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are looking for new sites for towers to serve their customers,” Rast said.

It was suggested that the city consider developing a process that would require Sprint, Clear and other cell companies to participate, perhaps by opening up the city for new cellphone towers every few years. In doing so, that could conceivably force carrier participation in the planning process or they would risk being shut out from having new towers for a length of time.

Planning Commissioner Lynda Wojcik said she felt the carriers should be limited to only building stealth towers instead of regular cell towers.

Commissioner Joe Frazar said the city could perhaps allow cell towers on top of buildings such as the Wyndham Peachtree Conference Center. But Wojcik pointed out that would open the city up to far more towers and the city might not be able to control the number of towers as well.

Frazar suggested the city adopt a safety precaution he found via the Internet that would keep cell towers from being built within 1,500 feet of areas where children congregate such as schools and nurseries.

Resident Beth Pullias suggested the city should consider making it a preference for any new cell tower to be built on public property. That way the city could have more control over the tower’s development, she said.

Commissioner Patrick Staples said whatever the city’s new guidelines become, it will be important to have them vetted legally to make sure they can stand up in court should the city ever be challenged by a cellular carrier.

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