A 130-foot tower in some Columbia residents’ backyards could mean better cellphone and wireless data service for the area – if the plan can clear objections from some neighbors and win approval from city leaders.
A proposed cellphone tower would sit just off Rosewood Drive beside the Columbia Arts Academy near South Kilbourne Road. But some neighbors are pushing back against the Mount Pleasant company, Optima Towers, that wants to put it there.
“This tower does not fit the future of the area,” said Nicholas Hymer, who lives nearby on Moss Avenue. “As we continue to build and grow the community and make it a better, more beautiful place, the cellphone tower is not something we think will add value.”
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Other residents in his South Kilbourne neighborhood and the adjacent Rosewood neighborhood have expressed concerns in their community Facebook groups. Many were present at a neighborhood meeting July 6, when they questioned a Optima Towers lawyer.
“It’s not something we’re trying to force on the neighborhood,” company spokesman Bryan Hunter said. “It’s something we’re proposing to the neighborhood ... We want to do what’s good for the majority of people in the South Kilbourne neighborhood. ... It’s one single pole, but it’s providing a great service to the community.”
The Rosewood site was chosen largely because “there have been a significant number of customer complaints about spotty service or lack of service,” Hunter said.
A T-Mobile antenna would transmit data from the pole. Other cell service providers could add antennas to the same pole in the future, Hunter said.
Hunter said the tower would strengthen the signal being transmitted between two other cell towers located about a mile away in either direction on Rosewood – one off Howard Street behind Rite Aid and across the street from Rockaway, the other near the intersection of Rosewood and Devine Street.
Optima’s plans describe the proposed structure as a “stealth” tower. That means it should mask its appearance as a cellphone tower, said Brian Cook, the city’s zoning administrator.
The Rosewood area has a stealth tower on Howard Street. It is white and topped with a gold ball, vaguely resembling a flag pole. Another in Columbia is near the corner of Trenholm Road and Beltline Boulevard, where a thick tower is roughly disguised as a pine tree.
The proposed Rosewood tower could look something like one of those two, Hunter said.
To build the tower, Optima would need special approval from the Columbia Board of Zoning Appeals. The company has not yet submitted any plans or submitted a request to the city, Cook said. Optima likely will hold another community meeting before taking its plans to the city, Hunter said.
While there are dozens of cellphone towers dotting the city, it’s not often that a new one is built, Cook said. In the past five years, he can think of three new towers that have gone up.
Columbia Arts Academy, which sits next door to the proposed tower site, agrees with those who say the tower is a bad idea, said Kathleen McDaniel, a Columbia attorney representing the music school. The tower “will have a negative effect ... in terms of property values,” she said.
“This is just not the right location for the cellphone tower,” McDaniel said.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.