Originally created 01/02/00

Residents oppose phone towers



NORTH AUGUSTA -- Julie Mattox and her husband bought their home five years ago because of the picturesque land it rests on.

But soon, the rabbits and deer Mrs. Mattox loves to watch out her back window will be frolicking around something nature didn't put there -- something taller than the pine and oak trees.

A 250-foot-tall cellular phone tower is being erected on property adjoining the Mattoxes on Martintown Road, making them Edgefield County's newest zoning proponents. They know they can't do anything about the tower going up now, but they say they hope to prevent more like it.

"I don't want to live up under that tower the rest of my life," Mrs. Mattox said. "If it ever fell, it would land right on top of our house."

She doesn't want to raise her family under the shadow of commercial and industrial development either, she said.

Mrs. Mattox is one of many residents eagerly waiting for Edgefield County's proposed zoning ordinance to pass.

The council is scheduled to begin considering the proposed ordinance this month, although final passage is not likely until this summer, Edgefield County Administrator Wayne Adams said.

"Council wants to review the ordinance carefully and get more public input before moving forward," Mr. Adams said.

The ordinance sparked many debates last year between zoning advocates and opponents -- including an outspoken group called Edgefield County Concerned Citizens, which views zoning as an infringement on its rights.

"The growth pressure on land in southern Edgefield County intensifies almost daily," Mr. Adams said. "As neighbors become more densely packed, compatibility problems are inevitable. But without some kind of zoning, the county is limited in its ability to protect homeowners."

Cellular phone towers are just the tip of the iceberg, he added.

Mrs. Mattox and her husband, Bobby, say the tower being built by Carrick Contracting for American Towers Inc. is a terrible eyesore. Their neighbor, Harris Medlock, is leasing the property to the company.

"It's just ugly," Mrs. Mattox said. "And I'm worried about the safety of my children as well."

The proposed zoning ordinance would not allow communications towers in the residential district along Martintown Road, Mr. Adams said.

Since construction on the phone tower will be finished in a couple of weeks, the tower will be grandfathered in even if county council passes the zoning ordinance.

"Without zoning, the growth pressure on Martintown Road will likely bring a number of things homeowners haven't anticipated -- and some of it may not be pleasant," Mr. Adams said.

ReachKatie Throne at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.