Council denies Shentel’s request for cell tower



Shentel Communications will have to regroup after Christiansburg town council turned down their request earlier this week to extend the height of a planned cellular communications tower along High Street.

Last month, a company official pointed out a current tower is located on a wooden telephone pole and needed to be changed to a more reliable and safer metal one. In addition, Shentel asked to increase the height to 110 feet.

The structure is currently located to the rear of Schaeffer Memorial Baptist Church, which had not expressed any opposition to the plan. Instead, the negative comments had come from adjacent neighbors who were fearful of possible health dangers associated with the microwave equipment.

Others were also concerned about the view and how much the cell tower would affect the value of their property.

The property in question is located at 570 High St., and the current wood pole is 70 feet with equipment on it that dates back to 1999. Max Wegard said Shentel is upgrading infrastructure throughout the region and the new tower would help to provide both new broadband service and upgrade to cell service.

All of this, according to Wegard, means more equipment is needed. In addition, he said the older wood pole is more of a danger to fall from high wind than the newly planned metal pole.

William Smith lives directly across from the church and the proposed cell tower site.

“My front porch is less than 110 feet from the location. If it falls, it would hit my porch,” he said.

Smith also expressed concern that it would be detrimental to property values in the neighborhood and would cause health problems. “My research shows that the more micro equipment that is added, then there is more of a chance for cancer for people living nearby,” he said.

Another High Street resident, Pete Whitlock, also expressed concern that the higher tower would degrade the historic properties nearby like the church and community center.

“The tower is not healthy for the church and neighborhood,” he said.

Wegard said the company will now have to consider another option for the site.

Council approved a revision to the recently passed “traffic interference law.” In addition to the driver of a motor vehicle breaking the law if they exchange items with pedestrian while in lanes of traffic, a passenger in that vehicle is also now breaking the law.

The ordinance prohibits the interaction of motorists, their passengers and pedestrians on highways and public roadways within the town.

The ruling does not directly affect panhandling, but does restrict those that might be doing so in a way not to interfere with the flow of traffic of any means.

The ordinance is directed at anyone that literally steps off the sidewalk and/or curb to interact with a vehicle and its occupants. That motorist can pull into a parking area and interact with such said individual and not be in violation of the ordinance.

Council also tabled a conditional use permit that would have allowed the operation of a fitness facility at 492 Reading Road, which is within an industrial business area. Councilman Brad Stipes recommended the town reexamine all the current uses of buildings within all the industrial zones.

“Then we can make a better decision on matters like these when they are brought to us,” he said.

Stipes pointed out this would not be a witch-hunt, but instead a way to see how the little pockets of the industrial zones are being utilized.

Most recently, council denied a request by the Montgomery County Moose Lodge to locate a restaurant and activity area in the Christiansburg Industrial Park.

In other matters, council approved the purchase of a new ambulance for the Christiansburg Rescue Squad at a price tag of $227,600, and reappointed Ann Carter to the Virginia Tech/Montgomery Regional Airport Authority.