Hilton Head Plantation residents waiting for better wireless service will have to wait a while longer.
The Town of Hilton Head Island's Board of Zoning Appeals postponed a decision Monday during a hearing to contest a town decision to allow a 149-foot cell tower inside the gated community.
The tower is designed to be disguised as a pine tree and built between White Tail Deer Lane and Dolphin Head Drive. Construction was to begin late last year and be completed early this year.
The town, however, cannot issue permits to begin construction until appeals by Brad Wainwright and another homeowner have been resolved.
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.
"I abhor the thought of looking at a 150-foot cell tower 200 feet outside my front door," Wainwright told the board.
The board voted 4-1, with Steve Wilson opposed, to continue the hearing at the board's Feb. 24 meeting. Board member Irv Campbell was excused from the meeting.
Town ordinance requires property owners within 100 feet of the tower to be notified of the proposed zoning change and that a majority of "affected property owners" must be in favor. Board members on Monday heard nearly two hours of discussion between Wainwright's attorney, Chet Williams, and town officials disputing how the 100-foot distance was measured and whether the town properly notified those affected.
Of those within 100 feet, two oppose it, two support it and one did not respond, according to the town. Property owners were notified that lack of response would be construed as support, town land management official Teri Lewis said.
Williams argues homeowner David J. Premo was initially notified as an "affected property owner" but then later excluded, despite his home being within 100 feet of the parcel, and the plantation's property owners association, which owns the parcel and supports the rezoning, included.
Premo did not attend the meeting, and an attempt day to reach him for comment was unsuccessful.
Town officials deny trying to stack the deck in favor of cell-tower provider Crown Castle International. They argue the first notice was sent to Premo in error, based on faulty measurements.
Lewis said new measurements were taken after learning some notification letters were sent to the wrong addresses. Because of the snafu, the town rescinded its initial approval and started over, this time resulting in more precise measurements using the town's GIS system, she said.
Williams argues the GIS data is less accurate than a survey of the cell tower parcel, which he claims indicates Premo lives within 100 feet. The town disputes the survey's depiction of Premo's property line.
The appeals board chose to continue the hearing to provide both parties time to provide testimony from certified land surveyors about the distance of the cell tower site to Premo's lot.
"This issue has already dragged on, and I'm not interested in this dragging on any longer than necessary, but this is a critical issue," board vice chairman Glenn Stanford said.
An attorney representing the Hilton Head Plantation POA declined to comment.
Plantation general manager Peter Kristian, who also is chairman of the appeals board, recused himself from Monday's hearing and declined to comment, as well.
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 division is prohibited by the community's covenants and that Dixon lacks authority to make it.
Kaplan's appeal is scheduled for March 19 before the Planning Commission.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.