By CRISTIN REECE
The Palestine City Council swore in new District 5 councilmember Mark Price and approved variances on the construction of a new Verizon telecommunications tower during its regular meeting on Monday.
Price recently was appointed to the seat vacated when then-councilman Therrell Thomas was elected mayor in May. Price was sworn in by Palestine Municipal Judge Bill Curly.
“I’m thrilled to be here,” Price told fellow councilmembers and an audience of about 20 during Monday’s meeting. Mayor Thomas added, during his report, “I’m glad to be mayor — I’m loving every minute of it.”
After the swearing in and the introduction of several new city staff members, the council held a public hearing concerning requested variances to the construction requirements for a proposed telecommunications tower to be located at 1768 ACR 2101, owned by Daniel Defore.
The tower would bring continuous 4G internet service to south Palestine and Anderson County and replaces an older tower.
“The proposed site is within the city’s ETJ (extra territorial jurisdiction),” City Manager Mike Ohrt said.
Variances were requested since the 320-foot tall tower would exceed the city’s maximum height allowances by 160 feet. Ohrt said adjoining property owners were notified of the project and the city had received three responses in favor of the tower’s location.
During the public hearing, adjacent property owner and area resident Duane Giles expressed several concerns he had about putting the tower so close to his home.
“I am concerned,” he told the council. “I like to know a bit more like what’s going to happen to my property values? Are they going to widen the road out there? Besides the tower what other buildings are they planning on putting out there? Are there any radiation dangers and is this going to make the city annex that area any faster?”
Verizon representative Ashley Fowler, who attended Monday’s meeting, addressed those concerns to council members during the regular agenda portion of the meeting.
“There will be absolutely no changes to the existing road and there will be no traffic restrictions at all,” she said. “All construction will be confined to the space within the compound, all utilities will be buried along the easement there to avoid any encroachment onto adjoining properties. We will add a gravel access road on the opposite side of the compound from (Giles’) property.
“Another concern voiced was the dangers of radiation from the tower,” Fowler continued. “The FCC has ruled these structures safe — they don’t give off any more radiation than what comes out of a television set. As for the area’s property values — the availability of cell service and high speed internet usually increases an area’s property values.”
Council members approved the requested variances.
“I feel better about it now,” Giles said after council members voted on the issue. “My concerns were addressed, which I appreciate. I still don’t like it much, being so close, but it doesn’t seem so bad now.”
In other business, council members adopted an ordinance establishing a six month moratorium on accepting, processing or granting applications for licenses for sexually-oriented businesses to be located within the city limits.
“We have received inquiries concerning these types of businesses recently,” Ohrt said. “This is simply allowing us time to examine the matter, which we’d bring back before the council at that time.”
Also on Monday, the council:
• APPROVED the appointments of Isaac C. Wynn, James R. Smith and Neel Warren to the Building Standards Commission; Melissa Winkler to the Palestine Economic Development Corp; Alan Herrington, Norris White Jr. and Bun D. Price to the Historic Landmarks Commission; Eric Musil and Diane Davis to the Parks Advisory Board; Lemone Reece, Mendi Perry, Adam Harding, Shera Bowers, Dan Manuel and Frances Ann Lindsey to the Tourism Advisory Board; and the reappointment of Sameer Bhatt to the Tourism Advisory Board.
• APPROVED a request from Palestine Tomorrow to make improvements on city owned property near the visitor’s depot.
• APPROVED a three-year contract with Lone Star Fireworks Production Ltd. for the city’s annual Independence Day fireworks show.
• APPROVED an ordinance adding an appeals process to the city’s historic preservation development code.
• APPROVED authorizing the city manager to execute the professional services agreements with Jones & Carter Inc. for the design and construction on the city’s improvements on the raw water pump station electrical system and the proposed wastewater treatment plant rotor and non-potable water improvements.
• APPROVED expenditures by the PEDC for the purchase of property for the Sanderson Farms Poultry project and for capital improvements on the athletic complex.
• TABLED taking action on approving expenditures by the PEDC for custom Christmas decorations, in order to clarify from whose budget the funds would originate.