In several parts of the eastern side of Aiken County, cellular phones lose service due to the lack of coverage in the area.
In the past few months, the Aiken County Planning Commission has approved five cellphone towers for that area, and a sixth application is on the way with the goal to connect residents to cellular or Internet services. Jonathan Yates, who spoke on behalf of AT&T at the last meeting, said that these towers are a long time in coming.
Aiken County Councilwoman Kathy Rawls, who represents the Wagener-Salley area, agreed.
“Generally, in the rural area, residents are very glad to get them because they don't have good reception,” Rawls said.
Rawls added that these towers benefit the County as well. With each communication tower that's installed, space must be provided free-of-charge to all Aiken County emergency services.
Yates added that there's also space for three other competitors to hook up to, and expand their services, too.
Sometimes, a new communication tower is welcomed. At other times, residents do not welcome the idea of having one of the large metal structures in their neighborhood. Most recently, a 150-foot tall Verizon Wireless cellphone tower was approved for Pineview Avenue in North Augusta. Several residents said they weren't fond of the idea of having to look at a tower from their own homes.
But as long as the company proposing a new tower is following County's ordinances and federal guidelines, Aiken County Planning Commission must approve the application, said Planning Director Stephen Strohminger. Strohminger said there has to be a pretty strong reason to deny the request.
Strohminger said that the Commission can request changes to an application if there's a lot of protest from the surrounding community.
In April, the Commission approved a 250-foot tall Verizon Wireless tower on Fox Pond Road that many residents were not too happy about. Final approval was granted by a four-to-one vote after the property owner asked Verizon if there was a better location. The location remained the same as Verizon representatives felt it was ideal.
Communication towers go to the Planning Commission, and do not require County Council approval.
No communication towers are permitted in office residential, neighborhood commercial, residential limited mixed use, residential horse 5, residential horse business district and residential single-family conservation districts.
For those who are interested in applying for a communication tower to be located on their property, Strohminger said residents must contact the cellular company directly.
Amy Banton is the County reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the publication since May 2010.