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Cell tower companies eye Jackson

jacksonAn application to build a new cell tower in Cashiers is back on the table, after the company, Crown Castle, yanked its original request in June.

And it’s not the only application that John Jeleniewski, Jackson County’s code compliance officer, has on his desk. A second application from a different company — SBA Communications Corporation — proposes to build a new tower in the Qualla area near the U.S. 74 exit for Cherokee. The same company, Jeleniewski said, is talking about putting a second tower nearby, though it hasn’t yet identified any potential property. 

He expects the applications to keep coming. 

“We’re going to get a lot of applications wanting to do new towers because of the demand,” Jeleniewski said. 

That’s something that Larry Perry, the consultant the county hired earlier to help evaluate Crown Castle’s original application, warned the county about this summer. 

“You’re going to have a lot more applications coming through,” Perry had told the planning board in June, when they were considering the application for the Cashiers tower. “You’re going to have roughly eight more towers coming into Jackson County between now and this time next year.”

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Increased demand stemming from heightened use of wireless communication means that more capacity is needed to process all the smartphone apps, tablet browsing and wireless sharing done today. 

“You need the facilities to be able to handle that, and in some cases they just don’t exist or they’re lacking tremendously,” Jeleniewski said.  

In August, commissioners approved the revised cell tower ordinance the planning board had spent the past year working on, attempting to bring the 15-year-old document up to date. Now, Jeleniewski’s up to his ears in cell tower applications and inquiries. 

But thus far, only two are on the table. 


Crown Castle

Crown Castle wants to build a 120-foot monopole tower on Gana Sita Road, half a mile from the Cashiers crossroads. It’s the same location and same height as the tower the company had originally proposed in its application this spring. The company pulled the application, it said in a letter to the county, because it wanted to wait until the ordinance revision was complete and go through the newly outlined process, which routes cell tower applications through the board of commissioners rather than through the Planning Board. 

The tower, which would house Verizon antennae, would be located on land owned by the Zachary family, within 140 feet of the property line separating the Zachary property from land owned by the Barr family. That location had sparked lively protest from the Barr family, who contend that its placement will impede their plans to eventually develop the land. 

Meanwhile, the Zachary family said it’s taken pains in its lease to stipulate that the tower be as unobtrusive as possible and that it chose the location simply because it’s the best place to get the most signal to the most people.

At the time, the planning board had recommended that Crown Castle consider an alternate location and that it look at making the tower higher. The planned 120-foot height would allow excellent coverage for the Verizon antennae that would go there, but trees would prevent antennae from other providers wanting to co-locate there from getting much coverage at all. 

The original application had a sense of urgency to it because the only tower currently providing service to Cashiers had a lease set to expire in September. But that lease was extended, giving Crown Castle, the county and the property owners some breathing room on the timeline. 

A public hearing next week will gather input from the community before commissioners decide whether to approve the application, which will be presented to them in a quasi-judicial hearing the same day.


The Qualla tower

The second cell tower application on the table comes from Florida-based SBA Communications. 

The company wants to build a 180-foot tower right along U.S. 74 at the Cherokee exit, giving cell service to an area known to contain dead spots. 

“There’s always been coverage issues out there, and I do get complaints that there is not good service out that way,” Jeleniewski said. 

The tower would be built to accommodate Verizon but also allow co-location for other providers. 

It will be some time before commissioners get around to holding a public hearing and acting on the application, however. The Crown Castle application is their primary concern right now. Jeleniewski is currently in the midst of completing his staff review and expects to see commissioners start looking at the application after the first of the year. 



Be heard

What: A company wants to build a cell tower that would provide service in the Cashiers area after the lease on the existing tower in town expires. Before commissioners vote on whether to approve the application from Crown Castle, which would primarily house Verizon antennae, they will hold a public hearing. 

When: 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 10. 

Where: The Albert Carlton-Cashiers Community Library on 249 Frank Allen Road in Cashiers. 

How: Anyone wishing to speak will have three minutes to voice an opinion. Written comments can be sent to Angie Winchester, clerk to the board of commissioners, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 401 Grindstaff Cove Road Sylva, N.C. 28779. A copy of the application can be reviewed in the Planning Department, also located at 401 Grindstaff Cove Road. 

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