Scott supervisors approve permit for new cell tower

Holly Viers • Nov 11, 2019 at 10:00 PM

GATE CITY — A new cell tower may soon be coming to the Fort Blackmore area of Scott County.

During last week’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit application submitted by Vertical Bridge AM, LLC to construct a cell tower and related ground facilities. Vertical Bridge plans to build the tower for T-Mobile, though other carriers can also use it.

“With the geography that we have, I can’t imagine anybody that would oppose a cell tower in this county,” said Supervisor David Redwine. “We need it so bad.”

Where will the tower be built?

David Gilmer, building and zoning official, said the tower will be located off Route 72, on top of the ridge just before entering Fort Blackmore. The property is zoned for agricultural and residential use, which is why a special use permit was needed.

“It will cover a portion of the dead space that we have in the northern part of the county,” Gilmer said. “We do have an extensive dead space as far as cell coverage.”

Why that location?

Dave Smith of Vertical Bridge said his company represents all carriers, though in this case it is representing T-Mobile. Smith said T-Mobile chooses locations to expand each year based on its budget and customer complaints; this year, the Fort Blackmore area was one of those.

“They (T-Mobile) came to us to look for a location, and we hired site acquisition to locate a good location on top of a hill where we could meet ordinances, as well,” Smith said. “So basically what happens is due to customer complaints and just known locations … where there’s a need, that’s why we’re at this location.”

Who will benefit?

Though the signal range of the tower depends on its height, Smith said the average range is two to five miles. Redwine asked whether customers of other carriers will benefit from the tower, even though it is being built for T-Mobile.

“What happens is in most counties, and your county, Scott County, does require this, that when a tower is built, it is required that it is co-locatable for additional carriers, and that makes sense,” Smith said. “You don’t want multiple towers that can only handle one carrier; that wouldn’t make any sense. … This one’s built for three additional carriers, so T-Mobile would be at the top, and then if Verizon, AT&T, some of the other carriers come along, absolutely they would have the space.”

There will also be enough space on the tower for the county’s E911 services to co-locate, Smith added.

“One thing I hear more out in the county than anything is cell service,” said Supervisor Danny Mann. “So I think this is a great asset being located where it is, and hopefully the folks going to the Devil’s Bathtub, we’ll be able to locate them easier. That’s always an issue if someone has an injury or if they get lost up there.”