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Iredell rejects radio tower plans

STATESVILLE A Lexington-based broadcaster’s proposed 1,190-foot-tall radio tower near the Iredell-Rowan county line would be a bad fit with the rural setting, the Iredell County Zoning Board of Adjustment ruled late Thursday in rejecting the company’s permit request.

After a 4 1/2-hour hearing, the board voted 6-1 against Davidson County Broadcasting Co.’s request for a permit to build the tower in a pasture at 1095 Mazeppa Road, east of Mooresville.

The tower would have been taller than the 869-foot-tall Bank of America Corporate Center in uptown Charlotte.

“I do not think this is ... harmonious ... for this neighborhood,” board Chairman Michael Johnson said in voting against the permit.

Neighbors celebrated. “People coming out and saying how it wasn’t harmonious was the deciding factor,” tower opponent Rustyn McConnell said after the board’s vote at 10:30 p.m. at the Iredell County Government Center. “It does restore some faith in county government that it does listen to the people.”

Gig Hilton, principal owner of the broadcasting company, said he intends to appeal the board’s ruling in Iredell County Superior Court within the required 30 days.

The radio tower would have extended the reach of 94.1 FM, a contemporary Christian music station based in Lexington, from 1.9 million to 2.8 million potential listeners, Hilton said. The taller a tower, the farther an FM signal can reach.

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.

“Based on this ruling over harmony, you couldn’t put a tower anywhere unless it’s next to another tower,” Hilton told the Observer. “That’s such a subjective evaluation. I guess I’m going to have to find a pig farm.”

Larry Edwards, who owns the pasture on which the tower would have been built, said he’s leaving it up to Hilton to decide how far to pursue the case. “Whether he does or not is fine by me,” Edwards said.

The board voted after hearing from seven neighbors who said the tower would intrude on the 135 homes that ring the site. Residents have fought Davidson County Broadcasting Co.’s plans for a tower since 2003 before various governing boards in Iredell and Rowan counties.

“If you got a neighbor with a lot of junk cars, you put up a fence,” Randy Overcash of unincorporated Mount Ulla said. “This would be right in your face. I wouldn’t have bought our home if I’d known there’d be a tower.”

“I love looking at Mr. Edwards’ cows,” neighbor John Dodson said. “This is not personal. I live out there for the quality of life. This is not in keeping with the continuity and harmony of this neighborhood.”

Susan VanFleet, a pilot instructor from Hickory, said the tower would have been in the path of her flights with students to Concord Regional Airport. She said the tower would also have endangered pilots flying to and from such private air strips as the McConnell family’s grass strip in Iredell County and Miller Airpark in Rowan County.

Other concerned pilots and residents testified on Dec. 19, when the board held a similarly lengthy hearing on the permit request.

“There’s no doubt in my mind,” VanFleet said of whether the tower would have endangered pilots. “Not only to student pilots but experienced pilots as well.”

On hazy summer days and in early morning fog, pilots wouldn’t see the tower at all, she said.

Marusak: 704-358-5067; Twitter: @jmarusak
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