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Residents fighting Iredell tower plans again

MOUNT ULLA Residents are once again fighting plans for a radio tower near the Iredell-Rowan county line that would be taller than the Bank of America Corporate Center in uptown Charlotte .

The Iredell County Zoning Board of Adjustment on Thursday will consider a request by Lexington-based Davidson County Broadcasting Co. to build the 1,190-foot-tall tower at 1095 Mazeppa Road, northeast of Mooresville. The Bank of America building in Charlotte, by comparison, is 869 feet tall.

The tower would extend the reach of 94.1 FM, a contemporary Christian music station based in Lexington, from 1.9 million to 2.8 million potential listeners, said Gig Hilton, principal owner of family-owned Davidson County Broadcasting Co. The taller a tower, the farther an FM signal can reach, he said.

The tower also would have space for companies providing cellular and digital services, he said.

The station’s air time is leased to K-Love, a contemporary Christian music radio programming service whose programming is simulcast over about 440 FM stations and translators in 47 states.

Hilton said other radio stations in the Charlotte region have even taller towers.

He cited Charlotte country music station FM 96.9’s tower off Faith Road in Mooresville that’s at least 1,500 feet tall; Clemmons-based WMKS 105.7 FM’s 1,600-foot tower in Cool Spring in northern Rowan County; and several other towers taller than his in the Gaston County town of Dallas.

At 1,050 feet tall, Charlotte alternative rock station 106.5 FM’s tower in China Grove is nearly as tall as his proposed tower, Hilton said.

Such towers also are common across the country, said Quentin Ellis, director of business development at Maryland-based United States Tower Services, which has built such towers since 1970.

He said local police, fire departments and emergency management offices also use space on such towers. “If you’re not willing to have it built, are you willing to give up your cellphone, or fire and rescue getting to your house?” he asked.

The proposed Iredell County tower would be in what Hilton described as “a large cow field.” Part of the property houses a commercial building, he said, and the nearest home belongs to the property’s owner, Larry Edwards, 1,300 feet away. The next nearest home is about a half-mile away, Hilton said. Edwards didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Rustyn McConnell, whose father and two uncles own land beside the proposed tower site, said the tower would be hazardous to his father’s private air strip as well as two other nearby private air strips.

McConnell said the tower also would hurt property values. He also questioned why the company is pursuing “old technology” in an age of online streaming and satellite radio.

Hilton said while the Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t regulate such small private air strips, its rules would allow for the radio tower if the nearby airfields were public, because they’re far enough away from the site, he said.

Davidson County Broadcasting Co. has tried for years to build a tower near the Iredell-Rowan line to extend its reach in the state.

In 2010, the Mooresville Board of Commissioners unanimously rejected a request to annex 18 acres on Parkers Loop, off N.C. 801, on which the company wanted to place the tower.

Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins was a town commissioner at the time. Mooresville tries to avoid “spot” zoning, Atkins said after the board’s 2010 vote, in this case a parcel 2.26 miles from the town limits.

Mooresville also didn’t want to overrule a neighboring county’s earlier decision on the tower, Atkins said.

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners had previously voted against the tower on land in Rowan County. The board cited concerns over the proximity of Miller Air Park, a grass-strip runway along N.C. 150 near the Iredell County line.

The N.C. Court of Appeals and the N.C. Supreme Court upheld the Rowan County board’s decision to reject a permit for the tower.

But in 2011, after a 17-hour hearing over three days, Rowan County commissioners voted 3-to-2 in favor of zoning for the tower on land off N.C. 801. That case remains before the North Carolina Court of Appeals after opponents sued.

Hilton said the tower will go on either the Rowan County parcel or the one being considered by the Iredell County Zoning Board of Adjustment on Thursday – whichever is approved first.

About 35 Rowan County residents attended the 2010 meeting where Mooresville commissioners rejected the annexation of the former parcel.

Residents said they’ve fought the tower plans since 2003 before various governing boards in the two counties. Hilton said some residents are just anti-growth.

McConnell said he hopes for a strong turnout at Thursday’s meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Iredell County Government Center (Old Courthouse), 200 S. Center St., Statesville.

“The McConnell family has been here since 1900,” McConnell said. “We have a lot of stakes in the community. We have the best interests of the community in mind.”

Marusak: 704-987-3670; Twitter: @jmarusak
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