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County commissioners approve permit for cell tower on school property


County commissioners approved a special use permit for a 90-foot cell tower on Murrayville Elementary property. Parents and nearby residents were upset and frustrated with the decision.

Parents said they only found out about the school board’s decision to lease the property to AT&T five days ago from neighboring property owners. Some property owners got letters in the mail, only a little before that.

Concerned homeowner Kim Harrell said, “Nobody is going to want to buy my house that we’ve maintained for 24 years, very nicely, with a big cell tower in the background. When you take a picture of the house, you’re going to see a big cell tower. I mean, there’s just no getting around it.”

It is not just declining property values, but also health concerns that are at the heart of the argument against a cell phone tower on school property.

“There are studies out there to go both ways and because of that, I’d rather err on the side of caution for the safety of my child,” said Murrayville Elementary PTA vice president Angela Peterson.

County commissioners heard from representatives for the American Tower Corporation, as well as the opposing sides. Federal law limits municipalities from evaluating health concerns when approving or denying permits, since there is no concrete evidence linking health problems to cell towers.

In the end, only Commissioner Greer voted against the permit, saying he would not want it in his neighborhood.

The Murrayville PTA and property owners are still hopeful that there is some sort of recourse against the county commission’s decision.

The money from the lease of the land for the tower will go back to the New Hanover County School Board.

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Story summary

videoIt was a disappointing night for a group of New Hanover County parents and property owners. Despite some residents efforts to fight it, county commissioners approved a special use permit for a cell phone tower on Murrayville Elementary School property.

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