Local News

May 9, 2014

Commissioners to consider cell tower, alcohol votes on Monday

Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Babb says the board will make a decision on whether to approve a new cellphone tower near The Farm golf course and gated community on Monday. But he admits that, depending on how commissioners vote, it may not end the matter.

Verizon wants to put a tower at 1079 Mill Creek Road in Rocky Face. At a meeting with residents of the area Monday night, company representatives said the tower would not only give them better coverage around The Farm, Mill Creek Road and Dug Gap Road, it would also improve download and upload speeds for those using wireless broadband.

But most residents who attended the meeting said they oppose the tower, as did those who turned out at a Dalton-Whitfield County Planning Commission meeting earlier this year.

If commissioners reject the special use permit, Verizon has the option to appeal the decision in court under the federal Telecommunications Act. And Babb says that since that public meeting, commissioners have become aware of another law that could play a role in where that tower is placed.

“A new state law that takes effect July 1 says we cannot require them to locate a tower on public lands as an alternative to a site they have proposed,” he said.

At the planning commission meeting, some residents proposed placing the tower a couple of miles south of where Verizon wants it, on the former Westside landfill, which is owned by the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Management Authority.

Company officials looked at that alternative and said that while it would give them the additional coverage they need it would not give them the download speeds they want. Babb said the landfill site made sense to him.

“All I heard at the meeting was iPad service to The Farm,” he said. “But we’ve got people on Mill Creek Road and places out on that end of the county who can’t call 911 if their landline goes out. Putting a tower out on the landfill would actually help more of those people.”

The board meets at 6 p.m. at Administrative Building No. 2 at 214 W. King St. in Dalton.

Commissioners are also scheduled to consider resolutions to place referendums on the Nov. 4 general election ballot to allow Sunday sales of malt beverages and wine by the package and Sunday sales of alcohol by the drink. Voters rejected a referendum to allow Sunday sales in unincorporated parts of the county by 59 percent to 41 percent in 2011.

Commissioners have been talking about another alcohol vote for several months, describing it as an “economic development.” Sunday sales by the drink, they say, could help attract more sit-down restaurants to the county, while Sunday package sales could help convenience stores and grocery stores in the unincorporated parts of the county compete with those in Dalton and neighboring counties that allow such sales.

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