Fayette’s celltower rules skewed, unfair

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I would like to respond to the recent article published in the Fayette Citizen about the celltower being built on Crabapple Road. While I appreciate that the article correctly voiced my opinion about the lack of notification to the surrounding neighbors near the cell tower and the need to change the ordinance, significant issues were omitted from the article.

After a thorough review of the tower ordinance that was in place at the time of application (later amended) using government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and the applications submitted by two competing celltower companies, SCI of Georgia and Highwood Towers, I came to the following conclusion:

The approval process that took place in authorizing SCI to build a celltower on Crabapple Road was not in compliance with the tower ordinance in place at the time and should be overturned on appeal in favor of Highwood Towers, who followed the proper procedure in filing their application with the county.

In the original tower ordinance, under part E, paragraph 2b, titled Supplemental Requirements Outside of the Highway Corridor, it states that “an Administrative Approval can be granted for towers of 180 feet or less in height outside of the highway corridor provided that the tower meets all other applicable requirements.”

The application submitted by SCI did not meet all the other applicable requirements because it did not meet the requirements of Part D, paragraph 13, Federal Requirements, which clearly states that “Prior to submittal for an administrative site plan approval, applicants shall be required to submit a copy of the determination of No Hazard to Air Navigation from the FAA and a copy of the Carrier’s FCC license.”

SCI did not submit the required copy of the FAA certificate with their application. Because SCI did not meet the requirements of paragraph 13 of the ordinance, it also did not meet the Supplemental Requirements of the ordinance, and therefore was not eligible for an administrative approval and should have instead gone to a public hearing process.

Furthermore, SCI filed an application with the planning and zoning department that contained information that was incomplete, incorrect and lacking 15 required items.

The net effect was that despite all these errors and omissions the county still counted the application as the first received and thus prevented any other towers from being built within a 1.5 square mile area.

In contrast, Highwood Tower’s application was much more complete and accurate (having only one deficient item) and would build on a site that has very minimal impact on the surrounding community.

Highwood Towers followed the proper procedure and waited until they had their FAA certificate in hand before filing their application, yet the county practice of accepting the first application received meant that the Highwood Tower application was summarily denied.

Furthermore, under the purpose and intent clause of the ordinance, it states, “The intent of this ordinance is to control placement of towers and antennas in a way that minimizes the adverse visual impact to nearby properties by locating towers and antennas in non-residential areas or in areas where the adverse impact on the community is minimal.”

So clearly, by not taking Highwood Tower’s application into consideration at the same time as SCI’s application, the spirit of the ordinance was ignored in favor of the arbitrary “first received” policy.

So I ask; is this really how Fayette County does business? Reward the first application in, no matter how incomplete, incorrect and detrimental their proposal is to the surrounding community? Shouldn’t the county instead review all applications based on their merit and their subsequent impact on the community?

This is a dangerous precedent that Fayette County is setting, as it will only encourage developers to submit incomplete applications in order to be granted “place holder” status from county officials rather than the desired quality and due consideration that our resident’s desire for future construction projects around the county.

The Planning and Zoning department did not properly follow the tower ordinance that was in place at the time, and so the approval given by the zoning administrator should be reversed.

Maria Kachadurian

Peachtree City, Ga.