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Battle Over Cell Tower Between Silver Spring Farms in Banner Elk, American Towers Back Before Town Board

By Jesse Wood

Jan. 2, 2015. A battle that began in 2013 between residents of Silver Spring Farms in Banner Elk and American Towers over a proposed installation of a cell tower lingers into 2015.

In December, the Banner Elk Board of Adjustment granted American Towers, which is represented by David Pokela of the Greensboro-based firm Nexsen-Pruet, a continuance to finalize easements across the property located at 488 Old Turnpike Road in Banner Elk.

“[American Towers] explained how much time they’ve spent in trying to get easements across the property and other properties, and the board felt like they had proved due diligence in trying to get these easements,” said Cheryl Buchanan with the Banner Elk Planning & Zoning Department.

While Pokela couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday, Buchanan said that American Towers claims it is “very close to having something worked out.” Because of this, the Banner Elk Board of Adjustment agreed to a two-month continuance.

In November 2013, the town approved a conditional use permit for American Towers and AT&T to construct a 100-foot cell tower. Although residents of Silver Spring Farms spoke out against the cell tower, the town nonetheless approved of the application. Residents then took the issue to court.

Attorney Nathan Miller, who is representing the residents of the neighborhood and opposed the recently granted continuation, said that N.C. Superior Court Judge Thomas Davis sided with the residents this past September, bringing the matter back before the Banner Elk Board of Adjustment.

Miller said that the ordinances within the Town of Banner Elk require a 25-foot right of way before any structure can be built, which he said American Towers hasn’t yet obtained. Miller also pointed out that the ordinance requires American Towers to lease or own the entire “fall zone.” Since the proposed tower is 100-foot tall, Miller said American Towers must obtain an even bigger footprint in order to build the tower.

Miller said that the residents are concerned about their views being impeded by the tower; about their safety if the tower were to fall; and concerned about how this tower will affect the property value of their homes and land.

“And we see it as only benefitting Elk River,” Miller said. “Looking at the map originally presented, the whole purpose is to give better coverage to Elk River community. My clients would rather, if it’s going to benefit Elk River put it in Elk River.”

The matter will be back before the Banner Elk Board of Adjustment in February.