Residents near a proposed cell tower are still fighting a major phone provider after the Mobile Planning Commission denied its request for the tower, but it may be a one-way fight unless the provider chooses to push further.
Muir Woods residents and AT&T clashed over a proposed cell tower at 6311 Cottage Hill Road, but ultimately on Jan. 16 the commission denied the 150-foot tower from being placed just a short distance from one family’s backyard.
Cynthia Hyde lives very close to the proposed site of the AT&T tower — the tower would be feet from her backyard — and is ready for round two if the service provider wants to appeal the commission’s decision.
“AT&T appeared before both the Board of Zoning Adjustment and the Planning Commission, and both boards denied the variances and planning approval for the AT&T applications. We now understand that AT&T plans to appeal both denials with the planning approval coming before you all,” she said in a letter to the City Council and Mayor Sandy Stimpson. “AT&T states that they must go on this specific location between our neighborhood and the Noel Cemetery, as if there are no other alternatives. We have given them alternatives, one being the Senior Center on Hillcrest.
“Our engineer has shown that co-location on three other nearby towers will accomplish the goal of providing better service. Again, the Senior Center on Hillcrest Road is a viable alternative location for a new tower, if necessary.”
Hyde said the AT&T determined the Senior Center is too far away, but Muir Woods has provided them with two other options in which the landowners are more than willing to house a cell tower — behind the Cottage Hill Road Publix and behind Asia Garden restaurant.
“Both owners have already expressed interest in having an AT&T cell tower on their land,” Hyde said. “The location behind Publix already has cell towers on it.”
AT&T has not responded to the subdivision’s requests yet.
On Jan. 23, AT&T Director of Communications Lance Skelly said the service provider is still considering their options.
“At this time, there is very little additional information to share on this matter, other than to say we are not and have no plans to appeal this decision to the City Council,” he said.
However, when asked if AT&T planned on appealing the decision to Mobile Circuit Court or the FCC, Skelly said, “We are still evaluating our options and have not made any other decisions to date.”
The possibility for an appeal still has Muir Woods residents ready to fight against AT&T.
Dr. Desiree A. Soter-Pearsall is a physician in internal medicine and the proposed cell tower would stand behind her backyard.
“￼￼￼There are several concerns regarding the placement of this tower. The first relates to the eyesore that it will become, along with the loss of property value of my house and other homes in the neighborhood,” Soter-Pearsall said in a letter. “This concern, however, pales compared to the potential health hazard that we will all face if the tower is placed with such close proximity to our dwellings.”
Soter-Pearsall then outlined several case studies in which levels of cancer rose when people lived very close to cell towers.
Although the Rev. Émile George Noel III lives in Mandeville, La. now, he was born and raised in Mobile and still has a very special connection to Mobile — the Noel Cemetery.
The cemetery sits off Cottage Hill Road and is flanked by a Hardees and Domino’s Pizza. The Noel family opposed the construction of both fast food restaurants. The cell tower would go behind the cemetery if approved.
The Noels were not notified of the possible cell tower and the Rev. Noel said the family believes it would present unique problems for the cemetery.
“And what if this tower is built, and felled during a hurricane, and then falls on and damages the cemetery graves, some of which are very ancient and irreplaceable. What if they were trying to build a tower next to Church Street Graveyard, and threatened Joe Cain’s grave? Does anyone care?” he said in a letter.
If AT&T does decide to appeal to the federal level, the history between the FCC and the service provider shows the Muir Woods residents would have a much bigger fight on their hands.
Traditionally, the FCC sides with AT&T on issues ranging from cell tower placement to acquisitions and mergers with other cell phone companies.
Hyde said Muir Woods residents, who total 52 families, just want a positive campaign for a different location.
“There is no way we’re going to fight this in court because AT&T has the ultimate trump card — the FCC,” she said. “The FCC can approve the location and it doesn’t matter the state or local regulations. So, why would we fight if we know we’re going to lose?
“We just want AT&T to move the cell tower so that a community doesn’t have to deal with the negative impact.”