Supervisors give OK at public hearings

Published 9:43 am Monday, January 30, 2017

The Southampton County Board of Supervisors on Monday night gave unanimous approval during three public hearings, one of which included the establishment of a communications tower in Little Texas.

First, Apex Tower Company was granted a conditional use permit to erect in an A-1, Agricultural zone, a 199-foot-tall non-illuminated communication tower about 1,000 feet south of the intersection of Little Texas and Old Church roads, which is in the Drewryville district.

T-Mobile will provide its wireless service through the structure, but Verizon or AT&T could put up an antenna, according to Beth Lewis, secretary to the Planning Commission.

She added that Planning had given its unanimous recommendation.

First to speak was Al Edwards, who said he represented five other people present and another family unable to attend. He emphasized that they weren’t looking to stop the tower from being established, but they had concerns about property value depreciating; health concerns and the structure being an eyesore were added. The request was made to move the tower 2/10s to 3/10s of a mile from the intended site, and Edwards wondered if the matter could be postponed. Richard Railey, county attorney, told the board that it can only vote for or against the permit.

Mike McManass of Boykins thanked Apex, which was represented by Harrold Timmons, for trying to get wireless coverage to the area. He said “T-Mobile has better coverage. It’s the future. It’s cheaper. Bring more T-Mobile to us.”

Timmons said the owners have not asked Apex to move, and the company is not interested in moving it any more.

“T-Mobile is set and ready to move this location,” he added.

Following another plea to postpone the matter, Supervisor Dr. Alan Edwards said that if the board doesn’t go along now, the county could lose the tower. Supervisor Barry Porter said, “There’s no material health consequence of having these towers,” adding that he also does not believe the tower would have a negative effect on real estate. Supervisor Carl Faison noted that Apex has gone through due diligence. Supervisor Bruce Phillips added, “I feel we need this service. It’s in the best interest of the county.”

The board then voted to approve the permit.

The second zoning ordinance amendment pertained to private stables, horses and acreage. As was noted, the Planning Commission could only look at land use when the matter cam before the panel. Isle of Wight County was used a model — one acre for each horse — which those members saw as a good first step.

Both Gayle Phillips and Glenn Updike said the issue was also one about health and sanitation.

“I think you’re trying to do the right thing,” she said. “I agree with Mr. Updike that it’s a health issue,” to which she acknowledged that if a horse is not well taken care of, it’s “not the county’s problem to take care I have horses and plenty of space. If a horse is not well taken care of them.”

Gary Cross said, “The problem is policing this matter. We don’t have personnel to go around and tell people they don’t have enough acreage. I would agree that an acre may not be enough.”

Edwards said the board has to start somewhere, and the other supervisors were in agreement with Planning’s recommendation.

Third, the zoning ordinance amendment was also unanimously approved to establish voluntary agricultural and forestal districts. Cross, who spoke then as president of the Southampton County Farm Bureau, urged the board to think outside the box.

Reminding them of local businesses such as Ferides, Enviva, Providence Ag, etc., he said they come here “because we have raw materials. Think about economic benefits that may come from announcing dedicating land to stay agriculture and forestry. The Farm Bureau is here to preserve, protect agriculture for next generation.

Again, the supervisors agreed unanimously with Planning’s recommendation.

In other business:

• Dallas Jones and Ronald West remain as the chairman and vice chairman, respectfully, of the board, and county administrator Mike Johnson will also continue to serve as secretary.

• Edwards had nominated the same slate of Dallas, Ronald and Mike Johnson as leaders, and the votes were unanimous.

• Jones said, “Thank you for the confidence you have in me,” and proceeded with the rest of the meeting.

• Meeting dates will remain fourth Monday of each month beginning with a closed session at 6 p.m.; with the exception for Dec. 18 and any instances of inclement weather.

• The holiday schedule: George Washington’s Birthday Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day.