South Charlotte

Town tower rules called out-of-date

Are Matthews communications tower rules antiquated?

Yes, according to Jonathan Yates, who has submitted a text change ordinance that would allow more flexibility for towers, especially in residential areas. The Matthews Board of Commissioners held a public hearing Monday night on the text change.

Yates, who represents several wireless carriers, says much has changed since the town's ordinance was written in 1997. With the prevalence of wireless phones and other devices in businesses and residences, he says, it's time for the town to make some changes so that carriers can deliver the services customers require.

"Matthews has an ordinance for wireless communication that has 15 years on it. When it was written, there was a heavy emphasis on covering commercial corridors. The fact is, people want to use their phones wherever they are, even inside their homes," Yates said.

The proposed text changes deal particularly with stealth antennae - those attached to the top of existing structures such as steeples and light poles. The current ordinance limits the height of a stealth antenna to 80 feet in a residential area, unless placed on a taller structure that existed in 1997. Antennae could not be placed higher than 80 feet on a newer structure no matter its height.

The proposed ordinance would allow stealth antennae to reach 40 feet above any existing structure in all areas and would include all structures in existence as of Dec. 31, 2010.

Yates said the new ordinance would encourage shared use of the towers and eliminate the need for new tower construction.

In a memo to the board, Matthews Planning Director Kathi Ingrish told the town board that the text change would create inconsistencies in the town's communications equipment provisions. She suggested that the board take a look at the entire policy if they are interested in revising height restrictions, antenna locations or other communications criteria.

The text change will go to the Matthews Planning Board for their comments and could be voted on by commissioners at their Feb. 13 meeting.

In other business, commissioners:

Recognized employee Bill Sherrill, who has retired from the town, and police dog Reno, who recently retired as well.

Set a public hearing for Feb. 13 to hear comments on the proposed Lighting Ordinance, which would enhance the town's rules for reducing glare onto adjacent properties and also create rules for brightness and other factors when new lighting is installed.

Agreed to pay the Matthews Athletic and Recreation Association $6,454 for additional right-of-way for the South Trade Street widening project.