She doesn’t like it, but over time she’s gotten used to it.
“I just kind of ignore it,” Wallis said. “It’s just ugly.”
Wallis lives on a street near Anniston’s Coleman Road but just outside the city’s boundary, thus making her a resident of Calhoun County. She said she had no idea the tower was going up, but if she had a chance to comment on it she would have said she didn’t want it in her neighborhood.
Calhoun County Administrator Ken Joiner said the county has no zoning regulations and under the Alabama Constitution can’t enact any.
“We don’t have home rule, so we can’t regulate,” Joiner said. “Even if it’s right next to a $2 million home, it goes up wherever they can get a lease.”
But the city of Anniston does have the option to regulate.
Telecommunications is a complex field for a city government to tackle, however, so the Anniston City Council is considering retaining the services of a company called Center for Municipal Solutions. The company would create a new ordinance to regulate wireless telecommunication facilities and would administer that ordinance.
City Planner Toby Bennington said right now the city has about eight towers — most of them rising high above the city on Blue Mountain, a location designated for telecommunication facilities under the city’s current ordinance.
The city does occasionally have inquiries about building towers, but it’s the change in technology that will really drive the need for a new ordinance, Bennington said.
“With the conversion of 3G to 4G, we’re just going to continue to have these upgrades over time,” he said. “So we have to look at the most efficient ways.”
Right now, the city regulates the towers in its zoning ordinance, said City Councilman Jay Jenkins. The center would create a stand-alone ordinance taking into consideration the current regulations and current technology, Jenkins said.
Mignon Bowers, consultant for the center, said the advantage to a city that works with the company is the expertise it offers.
“Most cities the size of Anniston, the size of the city where I live, do not have in-house personnel trained in administration of a telecommunication ordinance,” Bowers said. “That’s a very specialized area.”
The center, she said, would also create the ordinance, review applications for facilities, assist, advise and make recommendations to the city about the applications, inspect the construction as the facility is built and assist in negotiating the lease contracts. When providing these services the center takes into account safety of residents and employees as well as the aesthetics of the city, Bowers said.
An added bonus is the city can create the ordinance in such a way that it doesn’t pay for the service.
The city of Talladega has been a client of the center for a number of years, said Talladega City Clerk Beth Cheek.
“When a wireless company wants to come in and put up a tower or add to a tower, they have to make their application, the put money…which goes into escrow — usually about $5,000,” Cheek said. “They are paid out of that escrow account that the wireless company puts up. So, it is at no cost to the city.”
Jenkins said the service would be an enhancement to what the city already has.
“It takes a burden off the city,” Jenkins said. “They’re basically doing the legwork for both sides and then they bill it all back to the cellular company.”
City Manager Don Hoyt brought the issue to the council at its last meeting and hopes to bring it up for a vote soon. Some companies have approached the city about this type of work, an indication that the city needs to move forward in the near future on updating its ordinances, he said.
“It’s an issue that needs to be dealt with,” Hoyt said. “This is one way to do it.”
Star staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545.