Politics & Government

Piper Glen residents angry over cellphone poles to be placed in front lawns

About 100 Piper Glen residents attended a meeting Thursday with Crown Castle, which builds cellphone infrastructure. The company wants to build four 30-foot cellphone poles inside Piper Glen.
About 100 Piper Glen residents attended a meeting Thursday with Crown Castle, which builds cellphone infrastructure. The company wants to build four 30-foot cellphone poles inside Piper Glen. Steve Harrison/sharrison@charlotteobserver.com

About 100 furious Piper Glen residents came to a meeting Thursday with Crown Castle, a cellphone infrastructure company that plans to build four roughly 30-foot cellphone towers or poles inside the affluent neighborhood.

What has upset the residents in particular is that some of the poles would be placed on homeowners’ front lawns, though technically they would be in the city right-of-way and not on their property.

Crown Castle calls the towers “small cell nodes” and part of a “major network improvement” across the city. The company said that traditional large towers are not able to handle people’s insatiable appetite for data, especially streaming video.

The city of Charlotte said 82 such poles or towers were permitted throughout the city last year.

Crown Castle said some of the cellphone poles across the city are attached to light poles that already exist. They can also be stand-alone structures.

One proposal from Crown Castle for Piper Glen shows that at least two of the poles would be new structures and would be adjacent to the street, in front of people’s homes.

Crown Castle also plans to build new cellphone poles in other parts of the city, including Birkdale, Blakeney, Carmel Commons, uptown, Huntersville, Concord Mills, Quail Hollow, SouthPark, UNC Charlotte and Westinghouse Boulevard.

“It’s not a Piper Glen issue,” said Ali Martinez, who is helping spearhead the neighborhood’s opposition to the cellphone poles. “We are first, but they are coming for everyone else.”

Crown Castle would not say who its client is, though residents say the company is doing work for Verizon. It’s possible the cellphone poles could be used by other carriers as well.

Crown Castle released a statement that said it’s worked with the neighborhood extensively over the poles.

“We are here tonight to host our fourth meeting with the residents of Piper Glen to answer questions and discuss plans for an upcoming installation,” the statement said. “Piper Glen is in need of network improvements, so we plan to install four small cell nodes, not cell towers, in the public right of way throughout the neighborhood.”

Piper Glen residents were upset at the meeting. They often shouted questions at the Crown Castle representative and said they didn’t want to listen to the company’s presentation. They said they were worried about the health impact of having the poles close to homes, and many said they would cancel their Verizon service.

Crown Castle said it reviewed some suggested alternative sites submitted by the neighborhood. Some of the alternatives wouldn’t work, the company said, though it did say one different location might be feasible. But the height of the cellphone pole in that location would increase to 40 feet.

That incited more groans from the residents.

The Charlotte Department of Transportation permits the cellphone poles. But under the city’s right-of-way utility ordinance, Charlotte said its staff members “ensure compliance with the established procedural and technical requirements.”

“If an application meets the requirements, city staff will approve the permit,” said CDOT spokesperson Linda Durrrett.

Piper Glen residents said the city needs to strengthen its ordinance to give it more control.

“We have gotten little from the city,” said Terri Young. “The core issue is not just Piper Glen.”

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

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