VIDEO: Second Hilton Head cell tower proposed for town land

tbarton@islandpacket.comFebruary 14, 2012 

  • The Federal Communications Commission released an interactive map Friday of areas eligible for $300 million in one-time money to expand wireless access across the country. Beaufort County is not eligible; Jasper County might be. Read more at reporter Tom Barton's blog at blogs.islandpacket.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.

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Another cellphone tower could spring up on land owned by the Town of Hilton Head Island.

American Tower wants to put a 152-foot tower on Jenkins Island beside Hilton Head Public Service District's reverse-osmosis plant.

The tower is needed to fill coverage gaps on William Hilton Parkway, Harbour Passage and Millwright Drive, according to the Boston-based company.

The Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division also would have space on the tower for equipment that would increase its communications coverage.

The tower would improve reception for AT&T Mobility customers in the area and could accommodate other carriers, such as Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, according to town staff.

"This tower will improve coverage to in-building and in-vehicle users who are currently experiencing dropped calls and slow data speeds in this area," according to town staff's response to the company's request.

Attempts Tuesday to reach a company representative for comment were unsuccessful.

The town Design Review Board on Tuesday approved a tower that, including a lightning rod, is no taller than 150 feet. At that height, the tower would not have to be equipped with a strobe light. The company has requested a 152-foot tower, with lightning rod, according to plans presented to the board.

The council previously approved the tower location, and the Board of Zoning Appeals in January approved an exception required for the project to make sure it fits with the "character and purpose" of the area and doesn't harm or disrupt nearby property.

"This rezoning will help to meet the market demands for improved cellular service, as well as meet the need for improved emergency (communication), both of which help to improve the quality of life and desirability of the Island," wrote senior town planner Nicole Dixon.

American Tower led a successful effort last year to build a new cell tower on town land next to Fire Station No. 7 off Marshland Road.

An island task force of industry experts told the Town Council in December that wireless carriers were deferring spending to improve service on Hilton Head because of the lengthy approval process to build new towers and restrictions on where and how they can be constructed.

The group suggested expediting the approval process to within 90 days. It also recommended a standard rental rate to avoid lost time in getting new towers placed on town property up and running.

AT&T had said it was holding off on placing its equipment on the tower off Marshland Road, citing town delays, but is now working to expedite its placement, senior town planner Shea Farrar said.

Farrar said the town should complete approval of the Jenkins Island cell tower within 90 days and plans to propose changes to speed future permit requests.

"We are in the process of drafting a lease and are using Fire Station No. 7 as a template to speed the process," Farrar said. "We're also working on amendments to make the permitting process predictable and timely."

The island's tree canopy, flat terrain and low elevation make receiving cellphone signals difficult, causing spotty coverage, according to the task force.

Poor service became a prominent issue in the 2010 mayoral election, and Town Council set improving telecommunications service on the island as a priority in 2011.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead

Related Content

  1. Jenkins Island cell tower proposal
  2. Task force: Ball now in town's court to fix cellphone service on Hilton Head: Dec. 6, 2011
  3. Panel: Residents should brace to trade aesthetics for cell coverage: Nov. 1, 2011
  4. Task force, research firm to test island cellphone coverage: Aug. 1, 2011
  5. 'Can you hear me now?' - Group seeks a 'yes' on Hilton Head: April 11, 2011
  6. 140-foot cell phone tower on Hilton Head Island clears first hurdle: Jan. 19, 2011

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