“Given that this is a very, very specialized area of the law, we just decided to get a recognized expert to kind of chime in,” Hosack said. “We’ve had three different hits now kind of get together and say ‘here’s our position,’ so if this ends up where I think it’s going to end up, I think we’re going to be in a good position.”
Amateur radio operator Ritner Nesbitt, a grandfather of 10 who lives down the road from Dominion Christian Schools, was cited after neighbors complained about his tower. He applied for a special land use permit, which the county’s Planning Commission unanimously recommended denying on Oct. 2.
Hosack said Nesbitt would be in the clear if his tower stopped at the county’s 70-foot height limit — “We would just wish him good luck and send him on his way” — but to have one higher than that requires a special land use permit.
Nesbitt, who has spent between $30,000 and $40,000 on the tower, said he’ll take the county to court before taking the tower down.
The county paid attorney Anthony LePore of CityScape Consultants, Inc. $500 to render an opinion on the matter. LePore concluded that federal regulations “would not preclude Cobb County from processing this application in accordance with its existing wireless communications regulations.”
County spokesman Robert Quigley said the county began using CityScape after it updated its telecom ordinance in Nov. 2010.
Commissioners were scheduled to vote on Nesbit’s request at their Oct. 16 meeting, but the matter was postponed until Nov. 20 to give the county’s staff time to review an Oct. 15 letter from Nesbitt’s attorney, Christopher Balch. In that letter, Balch takes issue with LePore’s opinion, writing that the tower is allowed under federal law.
Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee, just back from a trip to South Korea, said he needed to research the issue more before deciding which way to vote.
“Amateur radio operators are licensed at different levels to operate at different frequencies depending on their license ability,” Lee said. “They play a role in communications on a national level in the event of a catastrophic communications failure across the country, so I have to see if that plays into our decision-making as well.”
Nesbit said he moved to a five-acre wooded slope across the street from the Burnt Hickory Farms subdivision 20 years ago because it was the ideal spot to pursue his hobby. He built three radio towers on the slope behind his home in the 1990s: two that crank up to 35 feet and one that is 70 feet in height.
Then in 2008, his attorney writes, with band conditions continuing to deteriorate because of solar radiation, he decided to build a taller antenna tower. The fourth tower covers areas such as South Africa and toward Australia and New Zealand.