Hearing Monday on 100-foot tower near Bethany

On Monday, Sept. 21, the public will get a chance to have its say on a proposed communications tower that could rise to 100 feet tall on property very near the town limits of Bethany Beach.

At 7 p.m. on Monday, the Sussex County Board of Adjustments will hold a public hearing in County Council Chambers in Georgetown on an application from AT&T for a special-use exception to erect the 100-foot-tall monopole tower on 1.385 acres on the east side of Route 1, 100 feet north of Jefferson Bridge Road, in the county’s C-1 zoning district.

The application for the special-use exception notes that the property in question is within 500 feet of residentially zoned property, thus the need for the request.

According to county documents, a letter from AT&T about the application “states that co-locating equipment on another tower is not possible in the area, as no other tower exists.”

The application also states that aviation warning lights would be installed at 50-foot intervals on the tower. The structure would be set back at least a third of the tower’s proposed height – or 33.3 feet – and a 6-foot-tall fence would surround it.

The notion of a 100-foot tall communications tower on the seaward side of the highway, so close to Bethany Beach and nearby residential properties has raised some concerns for residents of the area – particularly in the wake of controversy over the communications tower originally requested by the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company (BBVFC) in 2005.

The BBVFC tower, which is under town – not Sussex County – jurisdiction, was originally proposed to be 120 feet tall and crowned with a 5-foot antenna. After objections were raised by the public over the idea that the tower would top the town’s residential building height limit by about 90 feet, a compromise solution was reached between the town and fire company.

The end result was a 60-foot tower at the Bethany Beach fire hall location, a repeater on a 320-foot-tall county emergency communications tower outside the town limits and the town’s willingness to pay for the cost of that repeater.

The proposed location for the 100-foot AT&T tower is just a few blocks south of the BBVFC’s tower, on the same, eastern, side of Route 1. Unlike the BBVFC, the AT&T tower location is just outside Bethany Beach town limits, so the issue will go before the Sussex County Board of Adjustments this week.

The county BoA could choose to make a ruling on the application at Monday night’s meeting, so those who wish to be heard on the application are being encouraged to file their comments with the board in writing prior to the meeting or in person during the hearing on Sept. 21.

Bethany Beach Town Manager Cliff Graviet said the town had developed no official stance on the application but that at least one council member planned to attend Monday’s hearing.

Also at the Sept. 21 BoA meeting, NRG will be presenting to its proposed project to install additional environmental controls at the Indian River power plant. NRG representatives said this is a routine standing review with the zoning board to proceed with the project and that nothing new would be presented at the meeting.

Planned emissions reduction measures at the power plant include: new NOx controls, including Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), to reduce NOx emissions by about 70 percent; new SO2 controls, including Circulating Dry Scrubbing technology (CDS), to reduce SO2 emissions by about 85 to 90 percent; and mercury controls, including use of a pulse jet fabric filter, to reduce mercury emissions by about 90 percent.

Point Staff Reporter Monica Fleming contributed to this story.