Hilton Head cell tower appeals delayed

tbarton@islandpacket.comDecember 16, 2013 

Two appeals challenging town decisions to allow a 149-foot cell tower inside Hilton Head Plantation have been delayed.

The vice chairman of the Hilton Head Island Board of Zoning Appeals granted homeowner Brad Wainwright's request Monday for postponement of his hearing until Jan. 27.

Wainwright is challenging senior town planner Jayme Lopko's decision Oct. 23 to approve a minor change to the plantation's land-use plans to allow the tower. His appeal was scheduled for Monday.

Reached by phone Monday, Wainwright said he requested the delay because he believes town ordinance requires a 45-day waiting period before his appeal can be heard. Town staff disagreed, but board vice chairman Glenn Stanford said the ordinance is unclear on the matter.

"And it is customary to grant the first request for a postponement," Stanford added, noting the issue needs to be decided on the merits of the appeal, not a technicality.

Board chairman Peter Kristian, general manager of Hilton Head Plantation, has recused himself from all decisions and deliberations concerning the appeal.

Another resident, Jeffrey Kaplan, is challenging approval by senior town planner Nicole Dixon to subdivide the property, which made the zoning change possible. Kaplan argues the community's covenants do not allow the subdivision and that Dixon lacks authority to override them.

Kaplan's appeal was scheduled for Jan.2 before the Planning Commission. That meeting has been canceled because the commission does not expect to have a quorum. The appeal has been rescheduled for the commission's Jan. 8 meeting at 9 a.m., according to town staff.

Town ordinance requires property owners living within 100 feet of the tower be notified of a proposed zoning change and that a majority of "affected property owners" must be in favor.

Of those within 100 feet, two opposed it, two supported it and one did not respond. Wainwright argues that he and eight others within 350 feet of the proposed tower, who are opposed, should also have been considered affected. Town ordinance provides them the right to appeal but does not define who is considered an affected property owner.

"The landscape view of these nine property owners will be permanently changed from natural open space" to a cell tower, Wainwright wrote in his appeal.

The tower is to be disguised as a pine tree and built between White Tail Deer Lane and Dolphin Head Drive. It would initially serve Verizon customers, but other carriers could be added later, Kristian has said. He would not comment about the delay Monday.

Construction was to begin this winter and be completed early next year, Kristian has said. The town, however, cannot issue permits to begin construction until the appeals have been resolved.

For more than five years, major cellphone carriers have been urged to invest in the plantation and improve cellphone and data services there, according to a committee appointed by the plantation's board of directors to study the issue.

Video: Board grants request to delay an appeal over island cell tower (:39)

Glenn Stanford, vice chairman of the Town of Hilton Head Island (S.C.) Board of Zoning Appeals, explains the board's Dec. 16, 2013, decision to grant the request to delay an appeal over the proposal to build a cell tower in Hilton Head Plantation on the island.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

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