South Charlotte

Tower at Matthews’ MARA fields to be extended

Matthews commissioners have approved a site plan that allows the 80-foot-tall stealth tower at Matthews Athletic and Recreation Association fields to be extended to 120 feet tall.

The tower, shaped like a light pole, has been in place with space leased by T-Mobile since 2009 but has never been activated. T-Mobile now is ready to activate its antenna, and Keith Powell of MARA Holdings, the tower owner, wants to extend the tower and shop for several other carriers to use it.

Powell says AT&T wants to locate there if commissioners approve the height extension and that Sprint also has expressed interest.

During the public meetings and hearings leading up to the site-plan vote, many residents urged commissioners to approve the extension, saying lack of cell service at the MARA ballfields was a safety concern. They said dispatch of emergency vehicles could be delayed as callers searched for cell service.

Several commissioners and Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor said they visited the MARA fields on a number of occasions and didn’t have trouble with service.

The site-plan approval passed 6-1, with Taylor voting against it. He cited the precedent the 120-foot tower would set for the rest of the town.

“There’s a potential for this to bleed over to other sites,” Taylor said. “Part of my concern is that we may be inundated with other sites that want extensions. I’m concerned about the future and how many cell towers we will have across the footprint of Matthews.”

In other business, commissioners:

▪ Discussed parking along Charles Street. Late last year commissioners voted to allow parking places along the street, and Public Works has started the necessary clearing; now, however, they are rethinking the decision, saying that in some places, especially intersections, the road is too narrow. The decision was deferred until May 11.

▪ Awarded a $433,213.07 contract to Sealand Contractors Corp. for construction of Charles Buckley Way, to be built between East Charles and East John streets. The new road will allow residents to access East John Street without going through the post office parking lot.

Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Melinda? Email her at