The Aug. 27 special report issue of Time magazine, simply dubbed The Wireless Issue, includes a piece exploring the “10 Ways Your Phone is Changing The World.”
Just an assumption, but it probably offered little new information for Dave Miller.
As media relations director for C Spire Wireless, Miller and his company have been on the front lines of wireless innovations. He could likely roll off example after example of how smart phones have already changed the world.
“It’s about how wireless phones have really changed everything,” Miller said. “That’s us. We are in that business.”
But C Spire and Miller are discovering that even if changing the world today, especially in the wireless industry, can be as simple as a software upgrade, revising a Starkville city ordinance can still present quite the challenge.
On Tuesday, the Starkville Board of Aldermen sided with the city’s board of adjustments and appeals, which recommended the city deny C Spire’s request for variance on the construction of a 100-foot cellular tower off of Abernathy Drive.
The Aldermen voted 4-2 to deny a proposed variance to the 2,640-foot set-back requirement in the Planning and Zoning code. This was the second site C Spire had proposed. The earlier site was also rejected by the city.
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk filled her Pro Tempore role during the vote because Mayor Parker Wiseman recused himself from the discussion. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver and Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker voted in favor of granting C Spire the variance, while Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins, Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn dissented.
Carver said before the vote that prior to C Spire’s presentation Tuesday, he was concerned about safety for the citizens in his ward. After talking to C Spire attorney John Wade and other C Spire officials, who related how their towers had survived Katrina and the F4 tornado in Alabama, Carver’s fears were put to rest, he said.
Carver said the current ordinance needs work, citing how the ordinance contradicts itself by first requiring under ‘Permitted Uses’ a 100-foot tower to be set back 200 feet from residential property, but also requiring, in a different section, that there be a 2,640-foot radius between the tower and any residentially-zoned district.
“The ordinance has obvious flaws,” Carver said. “We amend ordinances all the time, this is one that needs to be addressed.”
C Spire officials agree, and Wade said that they will continue to look for a way to work the situation out amicably, even though he thinks the ordinance could possibly fall under a violation of federal law.
“We are not going to give up,” Wade said. “If they continue to interpret it literally though, they are basically going to zone cell towers out of the city. Look at the zoning map, try to find a location that is within a half a mile of residentially zoned area.”
Dumas, who voted to deny C Spire’s request, said he does realize the ordinance is faulty and that it needs some help, but that he doesn’t want to just put a band aid on the issue, he wants to address it fully.
“I do think we need to amend our ordinance, I don’t disagree with that at all,” he said. “But I think it needs to be done so in a way that more thought is put into the problem, rather than just changing it because of one response.”
Miller said he still wants to see all parties get what they want.
“We aren’t trying to be antagonistic we really do want to work this thing out,” he said. “We didn’t approach cities lightly with these projects. They cost a lot, they are a lot of time to plan and engineer and we do a lot of research and study before we propose them. So we have got to find one in that general area if we are going to meet those coverage needs.”
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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