Cell tower will be built in East Brainerd after all

A telecommunications tower will be built in the Hurricane Creek area, despite push back from neighbors and county commissioners.

After originally siding with homeowners, Hamilton County Commissioners have now approved the permit request for a company to build a telecommunications tower in East Brainerd.

Commissioner Sabrena Smedley says a lawsuit filed by the company forced them to change course after originally denying the permit request.

"Federal law supersedes local law in this case," Smedley said. "If the applicant can come in and prove that there's a gap in coverage, there's a need, and that they've looked at other sites, and this is the only location where the tower can go, pretty much federal law lines up with them."

She's pushing for the policy to be changed so this doesn't happen again.

"Federal law, if it dictates what can happen, then it shouldn't even come before us as a county commission," Smedley said. "I feel that the commission should not have ever had their time invested in the decision making process if we don't have a voice."

She says it was disappointing when the commission had to vote to pass the permit this week.

"I went out to the property, saw how these homeowners were going to be impacted, and I just asked myself would I want this in my backyard, and the answer was no," Smedley said. "I got very engaged, spent a lot of time, tremendous amount of time on this issue."

She says the commission heard from at least 100 property owners in the Hurricane Creek area, including Jeana Lee.

"The tower that's going to go in is right on our backyard," Lee said. "As a property owner we were just trying to protect our property value."

She estimates her property value could decrease as much as $100,000 after the tower is built.

"It's not the turnout we wanted but we are hopeful we are going to be able to work with Vogue Towers, and their representatives, to make sure that our property value can be protected to the extent that it can at this point."

Lee said she and her husband would not have bought the property last year if they knew a cell tower would be built nearby.

"These companies for telecommunications towers are so federally protected there's really nothing we can do."

The attorney representing Vogue Tower declined an on camera interview, but says the company is going above and beyond to work with property owners.

He says they pushed the site for the tower back deeper in the woods, and will provide some landscaping for nearby properties.

The attorney said he isn't sure when the tower will be built.

Commissioner Smedley is also a realtor. In her experience, she says property values decrease when cell phone towers are built nearby.

She pointed us to studies posted online to the National Association of Realtors that found property values decrease, and the majority of people surveyed say they don't want to live near a cell phone tower.

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