The phrase “Can you hear me now” may soon be a thing of the past for some Syria residents.
Last week, county supervisors approved an indefinite special use permit and site plan application to construct a cell tower in Syria. The 199-foot tower, consisting of 195 feet of tower and a four foot lightning rod, will be located behind Graves Mountain Lodge in a 50-foot by 65-foot fenced compound. It will be built by CWS X, LLC which has constructed similar towers in the county.
CWS X agent Hope McCreary said the Arlington-based company has constructed 56 towers, six of which are in Madison County. She said once constructed, the company leases space on the tower to mobile wireless providers, fixed broadband providers and public safety agencies. She said the tower will improve all of those elements in the surrounding area and is also a way to utilize private funds instead of public funds to increase broadband access.
“It fills a need in the county,” she said.
The tower will be located at the base of the ridge of the mountain and needs to be 199 feet tall to get the maximum coverage allowable. She said the backdrop of trees works to conceal the tower.
Piedmont Environmental Council’s Chris Hawk said while the agency certainly doesn’t contest the need for the tower and understands its needed for public safety, he questioned its impact on the surrounding viewshed. He suggested the tower be painted in natural browns or greens to minimize that impact. He also asked if the height could be decreased without affecting service.
Graves Mountain Lodge Manager Lynn Graves said while guests may see the tower while driving up the hill, people sitting on the porch at the lodge will be facing the opposite direction.
Neighbor Douglas Dear said he’s excited about the tower.
“This is an excellent addition to the county,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing.”
Planning commissioner Pete Elliott agreed.
“I’ve waited years for this,” he said. “The county needs this for public safety.”
Currently, there is no cell service in the Syria area, leaving people, especially motorists, without effective communication in emergencies.
The planning commission recommended approval of the application 8-0. It was approved by supervisors 4-0 with supervisor Amber Foster absent.