Winston-Salem City Council Grants Permits for Cell Towers in Residential Neighborhoods

Winston-Salem City Council Grants Permits for Cell Towers in Residential Neighborhoods

5:03am Jul 08, 2014
Two cell towers, similar to this one, will be built in Winston-Salem's South and Northeast Wards. Supporters say they will improve customer cell phone coverage. But opponents say they will drive down property value.
City of Winston-Salem

Winston-Salem City Council approves controversial permits for new cell phone towers in two wards.

Monday evening, Winston-Salem’s City Council held a public hearing regarding the building of two proposed cell phone towers. AT&T and American Towers, LLC want to put them in the city’s Northeast and South Wards to fill the gap in cell phone coverage. But numerous residents object.

Mel Schlesinger lives in the South Ward and believes a cell phone tower will decrease his home’s property value. “They can say all they want about property values,” he says. “But the reality is no one wants to buy a house with a cell phone tower in their backyard.” Schlesinger says he would prefer to see the towers built in more commercial areas, and urges council members to be more receptive to residents’ concerns in the future.

Half-way through the debate, council members moved into a private room to continue their discussion. Finally with a 6-2 vote, they approved both of AT&T’s cell tower proposals. Each one will be 150 feet tall and surrounded by trees. There was ample debate between residents and council members centered on what the towers would actually look like. After 45 minutes, the council agreed to a mono-pole design.

Councilwoman Vivien Burke represents the Northeast Ward. She calls the choice difficult. “I really don’t feel good about the decision,” she says. “But as I stated, we’re trying to educate ourselves on new ground that we’re walking.”

Burke says she didn’t want to prolong the decision when she knew the result would ultimately be the same even if the proposals were sent to court. Her fellow councilwoman Molly Leight is over the South Ward. She’s disappointed she could not help her residents prepare for this hearing beforehand. “We have absolutely no access to our constituents,” she says. “They can’t talk to us, and we can’t contact them and give advice. It’s a very strange situation to be in. It’s an unhappy situation for a councilmember.”

In the next few months, AT&T will begin cell tower construction in both the Northeast and South Wards.

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