The Mobile City Council has delayed a vote on a lease agreement with C Spire, despite a court order over the summer clearing the way for a cell tower at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Almost a year to the day that the Board of Zoning Adjustment denied variance requests related to C Spire’s application to place a cell tower in the parking lot of Ladd-Peebles Stadium, U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade ordered the city to grant them.
In accordance with the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Granade found there wasn’t sufficient evidence in the board’s denial, board attorney Doug Anderson said. The ruling means the City Council must approve the lease, despite concerns from residents over the tower’s proximity to their homes and area schools.
At a 2014 public hearing held by the Planning Commission, resident Jerryln Rushing London said she was concerned about the number of towers already near Williamson High School and asked commissioners to consider the health of children there before approving the application.
After a number of delays and an initial denial from the Planning Commission, C Spire moved the proposed tower farther away from residents and gained commission approval.
The issue reached 2015 and ultimately resulted in the Board of Zoning Adjustment denying a height variance for the 125-foot tower and others.
At the time of the denial, Brooks Milling, an attorney for C Spire, said the company was seeking the tower to close a gap in coverage and could only locate it within a quarter-mile of its currently proposed location. Board members at the time had discussed possibly changing the design of the tower, but Milling said Verizon and AT&T had already agreed to co-locate on the tower and a change to a more aesthetic design would prevent that.
Despite the order, the council has delayed a vote on the amended ordinance for three weeks. Councilman Levon Manzie said the delay will give him time to discuss it with residents in the area.
“I think it’s important to have an opportunity to meet with citizens of District 2 about this decision,” he said. “As far as citizens in the Ladd/Leinkauf area, this is a fatal issue.”
While Milling did not return a call for comment this week, Manzie said he’d spoken with the attorney on the issue and been assured C Spire would talk to residents in an attempt to alleviate all of their concerns.
“The company has said they would try to mitigate concerns,” he said.
In addition to health concerns for students, Manzie said residents also fear a large cell tower would hurt property values.
“I was surprised by the court ruling,” Manzie said. “I’ve been advised that attempting to deny amending the lease would result in a legal battle.”