Politics & Government

Someone is vandalizing cellphone tower work sites in Piper Glen

The Piper Glen Homeowners Association recently warned residents not to vandalize work sites used by Crown Castle, which is installing small cell phone towers in the neighborhood. Residents protested the towers last year.
The Piper Glen Homeowners Association recently warned residents not to vandalize work sites used by Crown Castle, which is installing small cell phone towers in the neighborhood. Residents protested the towers last year. Steve Harrison

Crown Castle, a Houston-based company that builds cellphone infrastructure, is complaining to the city that someone has been vandalizing their work sites in Piper Glen in south Charlotte.

Crown Castle is building at least four roughly 30-foot cellphone towers, also known as “small cell nodes,” inside the affluent neighborhood. Many residents have bitterly opposed the project and have complained to the city that the nodes are too close to homes.

Crown Castle and other companies are building the small towers there and in other neighborhoods to keep up with residents’ voracious appetite for data, especially streaming video. They have built towers in areas such as Birkdale, SouthPark, Quail Hollow, UNC Charlotte and Blakeney.

Now it appears that someone has vandalized the Crown Castle work sites.

The Piper Glen Homeowners Association, in an email to residents, warned them against any tampering.

“We were extremely concerned to discover multiple instances of vandalism at worksites within the neighborhood,” the email said. It warned residents that the vandalism “could result in serious physical injury to Crown Castle workers and local residents.”

The email said “residents are pulling wire flags from the ground, wrapping them together and stuffing them in the conduit openings.”

The email doesn’t say for certain that Piper Glen residents were behind the vandalism. But after hundreds of residents assailed the plan, it appears the association has assumed someone from Piper Glen was involved.

It said “residents are removing mule tape from conduit, exposing the wires inside.” It also said residents are “removing marking flags from their intended location and collecting them in piles, requiring crews to re-do work.”

The HOA told residents the vandalism could get “someone seriously hurt” and these “are not just harmless pranks.”

“For example, once the conduit is installed, the line is ‘blown in’ and any objects inserted in the pipe may come flying out under pressure,” the email said.

Crown Castle said it’s installing conduit for fiber optic cables. The company said local utility companies have identified existing utility lines so Crown Castle doesn’t damage them. When flags are moved, it makes it difficult for workers to avoid hitting existing lines.

The Charlotte Department of Transportation is responsible for permitting utility installations in public right-of-way. But if an application meets Federal Communications Commission standards, the city generally OKs it.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

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