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Some want ban on towers

Efforts to better cellular phone reception in Demopolis aren’t as easy as throwing up towers all over town. Now, increasing the number of bars on a cell phone may get even tougher.

Led by a request from Woody Collins, members of the Demopolis City Council unanimously approved the support of a moratorium on cellular tower construction in Demopolis. At issue is the pending construction of a tower in the Demopolis historic district on the Culpepper property.

“You know, we’re fixing to be bombarded with steel objects if we don’t do something,” Collins told fellow council members at Thursday evening’s meeting.

To Collins, the solution is to place a moratorium on construction of towers, and he hinted at stopping the tower set for construction near the white bluffs. However, Mayor Austin Caldwell quickly pointed out such a move may not be possible.

Unicel, which dominates the cellular business in Demopolis, has already applied and paid fees for construction of the downtown tower, Caldwell said.

That doesn’t mean the city is powerless in the rise of steel, though. The property in question is zoned as a light-industrial area. Because of that, it is permissible to construct a tower near the river.

According to Brian Brooker, chairman of the Demopolis Historic Preservation Commission, there was little that could be done in the way of stopping the tower’s construction.

“I’m sure there are many people who would rather not have it there, but the property is zoned light-industrial and there’s nothing we can really do about it,” Brooker said.

In requesting a moratorium on cellular towers, Caldwell said the council’s only recourse would be to through the planning commission.

“I’ll be happy to draft a letter asking them to place a moratorium on [cell towers],” Caldwell to council members.

A moratorium, in the government sense of the word, is simply a period of time when an issue is studied. During the time-frame of a moratorium — Caldwell hinted the city could get anywhere between 90 to 120 days for this particular request — a group studies an issue and has time to make a change, if needed.

“What the [planning] commission can do,” Caldwell said, “is establish procedures and other requirements that would be allowed [for construction].”

Despite the council’s unanimous agreement on the cellular tower moratorium, the planning commission — scheduled to meet later this month — will have the final word on the issue.