During a public hearing at last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, board members discussed and approved a special use permit application from Verizon, which will allow the company to construct a new communication tower near Midway Road.
Where will the tower be located?
David Gilmer, building and zoning official for the county, said the tower will be located at tax map #71-A-17. This area is currently zoned for agriculture/residential use, Gilmer explained, which is why a special use permit is required to build there.
Verizon started the application process for the permit three to four months ago, Gilmer said. The company has since presented Gilmer with several potential construction sites, all in the Midway Road area.
“They had a firm go in and do what they call a balloon test to show the height of the tower and what it would look like. … It’s a monopole, which would be a single-pole tower,” Gilmer said.
Why is a new tower needed?
Cara Cochran, an attorney representing Verizon, told the BOS last week that the main purpose of the new tower will be to “offload capacity” from the current towers.
“If you think of it like a bucket, all of the times we send a text message or surf on your phone or use any social media, (the existing) towers only have so much capacity that they can handle, and the county seems to be overloading those towers with the amount of data usages and text messages that are sent,” Cochran said. “So Verizon needs another tower to help offload that capacity so you don’t have any lag in the services that you experience.”
BOS Chairman David Redwine added that improved cell phone service is needed not just for everyday communication, but also for emergency services.
“People have injuries or some kind of catastrophe happen, and maybe they’re by themselves, and the only way they have to communicate is their cell phone,” Redwine said. “If you don’t have service, if you’re in one of those dead spots, you might be there awhile before anybody ever finds you. … So any of these towers are very helpful toward improving that, and in return, it pays dividends to the safety of our residents.”
Are there plans for future towers?
Board members approved of the new tower in Gate City, but BOS member Danny Mann added that more towers are also needed in areas like Dungannon and Rye Cove, where cell service is spotty or nonexistent.
“I’ll let them know that the service in the county is sparse … so it seems like hopefully Verizon will get in and start looking around and see if there are some other options for sites to help increase the coverage in this area,” Cochran said.