Columbia County planning commissioners gave their approval Thursday for improving cellphone coverage for motorists and residents near the Columbia County Fairgrounds.
The board recommended 4-0 rezoning more than 17 acres at 5030 High Meadows Drive, just off William Few Parkway, to special district for construction of a 195-foot-tall wireless tower. Chairwoman Jean Garniewicz was absent.
The tower’s height became the topic of conversation at the meeting.
County planning staff told members of the board that adequate coverage could be provided by a height of 110 feet, which is set by county code as the maximum allowed for such a tower.
“The issue becomes tree coverage,” said attorney Chuck Palmer, speaking on behalf of TowerCom Enterprises LLC, the company building the tower.
At a height of 110 feet, only two carriers would be able to effectively provide service for residents living near the tower and motorists passing by, said Palmer, adding that the company works with all major wireless carriers.
“You want to share tower space,” Palmer said. “You would have to have more towers built in that area at 110 feet than you would at the 195 feet we’re proposing here,” he said.
Neighborhoods included in the coverage area are Ashwood Landing, Highland View and The Highlands in Ivy Falls, as well as High Meadows and Misty Woods.
Because the tower is below 200 feet in height, it wouldn’t be lit.
It could take eight to 10 months before the tower is built.
Planning commissioners added a recommendation asking that commissioners look at changing the county code to allow for telecommunication towers at a height of 195 feet.
“I think the ordinance needs to be changed,” Planning Commissioner Thom Tuckey said.
The planning commission also recommended rezoning approval for a parcel at 281 Settlement Road, off Bobby Jones Expressway.
The acre lot, currently used as an auto repair shop, was rezoned from single-family residential to general commercial, bringing the property into zoning conformity.
Planning Commissioner Gary Richardson, an owner of the property, abstained from the vote.