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BROADBAND SERVICE

Westlake tower proposal OKd by planning commission

After being delayed for several months, the Franklin County Planning Commission finally gave the go ahead for a proposal by Blue Ridge Towers to build a communications tower in Westlake.

The planning commission agreed to move the project forward to the Franklin County Board of Supervisors next week for a final vote. If approved, construction would begin immediately on the tower behind Grand Home Furnishings in Westlake. The tower is intended to provide fixed wireless broadband internet service to residents in the area.

The decision comes following months of negotiations between Blue Ridge Towers, the Federal Communications Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office over the potential impact to Booker T. Washington National Monument located less than a mile away. Concerns were the proposed tower could harm the viewshed of the park that works to keep a look and feel of the 1860s when Booker T. Washington lived there.

At the Jan. 11 meeting, Assistant County Administrator Steve Sandy presented a list of changes to the tower proposal following months of discussions. Changes included reducing the tower’s height to 160 feet and using a monopine design for the tower that would resemble an evergreen tree.

Staff at Booker T. Washington National Monument also requested that a wooded area on the western end of the site where the tower is to be constructed would not be cut down and that homes in any future development would not exceed 15 units or more than 1.5 stories in height. Staff also requested that Blue Ridge Towers provide funding to allow for the planting of trees at the park to block the view of the tower.

“I think we have reached a solution that all parties seem to be amenable to and in favor of,” Sandy said.

Following the presentation by Sandy, the planning commission voted 6-0 with one abstention to move the proposal forward. Snow Creek District representative Sherrie Mitchell was the lone abstention due to a conflict of interest.

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