Vote Allows For More Flexible Cell Tower Placement

SNOW HILL – County officials approved a text amendment this week that will provide more flexibility in the placement of cell phone towers.

On Tuesday the Worcester County Commissioners approved a change that will loosen the restrictions on where cell towers can be placed in heavy service areas.

“The problem is the demand for cell service has gotten to be so severe existing towers can’t handle the traffic,” said Raymond S. Smethurst Jr., an attorney representing Verizon Wireless.

The text amendment will allow the 1,000-foot separation distance required between a cell tower and a residential structure to be decreased by special exception to 500 feet when the tower is located in a high demand transportation corridor. According to county staff, the high demand transportation corridors in Worcester County are routes 50,90,13 and 113 as well as a small portion of Route 589.

Smethurst said demand for cell service was highest along major highways, as people relied on their mobile devices while they were traveling. A single vehicle is liable to contain multiple devices in need of cellular service.

“The numbers of instruments that people are using that utilize cellular service are phenomenal,” Smethurst said. “The capacity requirements on the systems have gone through the roof.”

He said that while companies like Verizon needed to install additional towers near major highways to meet the demand, it was “almost impossible” to do so with the 1,000-foot setback.

“That’s where the real need for these towers is, not out in the middle of some subdivision,” he said. “It’s where the traffic is.”

With the decrease in the setback allowed by the text amendment approved Tuesday, he indicated Verizon would be able to consider two new towers in busy Worcester County areas.

“That’s what generated this (text amendment),” he said. “This would have a very limited impact but it would have a significant impact on the ability of Verizon or any other cellular providers to put up towers where the need is.”

Smethurst stressed that the change would simply enable cellular companies to meet the demands of the public.

“Verizon Wireless just doesn’t build these things for fun,” he said. “They cost a lot of money. They don’t put them up unless they’re getting complaints that people’s calls are being dropped or they can’t make their calls.”

The commissioners voted 7-0 to approve the change.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.