AT&T wants to lift ban on cell phone towers in residential areas of Winston-Salem

AT&T Mobility Corp. and American Towers LLC are seeking an amendment to the city of Winston-Salem's Unified Development Ordinance to lift a ban on new cell phone transmission towers throughout residential areas of the city.

Telecom giant AT&T and American Towers LLC, a company that builds cell phone towers and leases space to service providers, approached planning staff in February to discuss their concerns about existing regulations, according to a report released by the planning department today.

"The issue behind this ordinance is that over the past decade as people have been substituting land lines for exclusive use of mobile phones, and with the advent of smart phones and increased streaming of internet and texting, that has reduced coverage area of the existing cell phone network," said Kirk Ericson, the lead planner for the text amendment with the planning department. "The radius of coverage of each tower is lower than it used to be. Our current ordinance doesn't allow towers in single-family areas except the future growth and rural areas of the county. They need to get these towers where their customers live and are using the phone service."

The proposed amendment goes before the City-County Planning Board next Thursday in the public meeting room on the 5th floor of the Bryce Stuart Municipal Building. Citizens who want to speak in favor or in opposition to the amendment are advised to arrive between 4 and 4:30 p.m. to sign up.

The planning board will make a recommendation, with the final decision made by Winston-Salem City Council.

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