Efforts to provide high-speed internet to residents in Glade Hill hit a snag Feb. 9 when a vote by the Franklin County Planning Commission delayed construction of a new broadband internet tower in the area.
The tower in Glade Hill is one of several proposed for construction throughout Franklin County by Blue Ridge Towers and Briscnet. The companies, along with Shentel, have joined Franklin County in providing high-speed internet to underserved areas with a mixture of fiber lines and fixed wireless towers.
The Franklin County Planning Commission conducted a public hearing for Blue Ridge Towers on Feb. 9. The company requested a special-use permit to build the 80-foot tower in an open area behind Glade Hill Elementary School.
The request was met with apprehension from the planning commission. Members questioned if the location is too close to a field used by the school for activities and for after-school events such as soccer matches. Union Hall District representative Deborah Crawford asked if other sites should be considered for the tower.
“Safety is my biggest concern for this location,” Crawford said.
The location of the fencing surrounding the tower would be just over 13 feet from the field, Crawford said. The fencing would surround a 50-foot by 50-foot “compound area” for safety around the tower.
Crawford said the fencing may not be enough to keep out anyone who may want to climb the fence to get to the tower. She questioned if another location on school property or in the nearby area may be better for the tower.
When it came to a vote, Crawford moved to delay action on the requested special-use permit for a month to allow time for county staff to consider other locations for the tower.
The motion was passed by a vote of 6-1. Blue Ridge District representative C.W. Doss Jr. was the lone commission member to vote against the motion.
Blue Ridge Towers representative Sean Cai and members of the planning commission expressed concern with delaying a vote at the Feb. 9 meeting. The special-use permit had already been fast tracked earlier this month to allow it to go to the Franklin County Board of Supervisors later this month.
Blue Ridge Towers planned to have the Glade Hill tower and other proposed new towers in the county operational by early spring. The fixed wireless towers would be able to provide high-speed internet to homes within 2 1/2 miles of the tower.
Cai also warned the planning commission that moving the tower to another location could delay the project by several months. He also said a new location could come with additional costs for the county.
Despite concerns, county staff agreed to provide other possible locations for the tower at next month’s planning commission meeting. The commission could then make a decision on keeping the tower at Glade Hill Elementary School or moving it to another location.