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City Council grants city a setback break

The Hendersonville City Council granted the city an exception to setback requirements that govern where telecommunication towers can go.

The city needed the setback change because it is installing 13 towers in and around the city to read water usage from the air. The city plans to erect the 50- to 80-foot poles on city-owned property, usually water tank sites.
The council agreed to reduce the setback from 200 feet to 100 feet or the fall radius of the tower, whichever is greater. (If the tower were 150 feet high, it would have to be set back at least 150 feet from the property line.)
The setback reduction applies only to property owned by the city, state and U.S. government, provoking a grievance from local business lobbyist Larry Rogers, who represents the Partners for Economic Progress.
"Why is it the exclusive right of the government to excuse these ordinances," Rogers asked during a public hearing on the amendment. "Why can't private property be a part of this also?"
Yeah, why not? Council members said, turning to the staff for an answer.
City attorney Sam Fritschner said the change came about because of the meter-reading project. "It was recognized that that could be accommodated if we changed the ordinance this way," he said. "We could put these towers on our property if we put them close to the edge."
The city could have tried to get permission from the Board of Zoning Adjustment, he said. "A better way is not to go to the Board of Adjustment and ask them to override the will of the council but to go to the council and ask them to change the policy."
Fritschner said that the towers will be used not just for the wireless meter reading but police, fire and emergency radio communication. The towers can also be rented by private companies.
The council also received a brief update on the meter reading project. The towers will read 28,000 meters six times a day, giving the utility department a real-time measure of water use and helping to identify water leaks. A groundbreaking for the project is set for July 31 at Patton Park.
Councilman Steve Caraker said he had spoken with a contractor working on the project. Towns in East Tennessee, Western North Carolina and West Virginia "are keeping an eye on our experience with the meter-reading," he said. "We're being watched, in a favorable way. They said a lot of people are afraid to jump off but it takes people like us to make it work."