Amateur radio operator Ritner Nesbitt, a grandfather of 10 who lives down the road from Dominion Christian Schools, said he expected commissioners to rule against him.
“Politics is politics, and I had predicted that this day would come,” Nesbitt said. “So, they’ve had their day in court, we’ll have our day in court.”
Nesbitt’s attorney, Christopher Balch, said he will likely file suit in federal court, arguing that the county’s ordinance governing radio towers is pre-empted by federal law.
“That’s why he didn’t apply for the permits to begin with,” Balch said. “He tried to get a building permit. They wouldn’t give him one because he didn’t have the (special land use permit), but we don’t believe a SLUP is necessary. We did this in order to create the administrative record and have the U.S. District Court ultimately decide whether our position is right or the county’s position is right.”
Nesbitt said he moved to the 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 amateur radio 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. A few years ago, he built a 140-foot tower. The higher the antenna, the easier to communicate with other radio operators around the world, he said.
In March, the county received a complaint about the tower and issued Nesbitt a notice of violation. Nesbitt responded by arguing that ham radio operators are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission and therefore are exempt from local ordinances. But just to be safe, he applied for a special land permit for the 140-foot tower, which the county’s Planning Commission denied on Oct. 2.
Jodi Siciliano, who moved just south of Nesbitt on Burnt Hickory Road in 2006, was the only one to speak against the radio tower during the public comment part of the meeting, pointing to the list of names from neighbors who signed a petition in support of Nesbitt’s tower.
“I wanted to speak to the petition that they had showing that everyone is perfectly fine with them having this,” Siciliano said to commissioners. “As you saw in the shots of the house, it is wooded, and most of those people have no idea that these towers are up there. The two neighbors that do face the towers, we do object to them. They are unsightly.”
Goreham said the county’s code allows Nesbitt only one tower, not four.
“Code allows for one tower on the property under 70 feet that doesn’t have to go through the land use permit process,” Goreham said. “There’s a code out there that requires certain rules to be followed, and if they are followed you can coexist within the community.”
Commissioners supported Goreham’s recommendation in a 5-0 vote.
In other business, commissioners approved a proposed $41 million development off Macland Road by Bankstone Drive, approving a zoning request by Toronto-based Ballantry Homes. The developer intends to build 123 homes on a 65-acre tract ranging in size from 2,200 square feet to 4,000 square feet. Prices will begin in the high $200,000 and range up to the $400,000s.
“They’re expecting to start late spring to start development,” said Ballantry’s attorney, Kevin Moore. “With 123 homes, that will be a two- to three-year build out.”