EMC gets green light to lease tower space

The Cairo City Council on Thursday night cleared the way for Grady Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) to lease tower space on its new communications tower.
Based on the recommendation of the City of Cairo Planning Commission, the council voted unanimously to rezone the tract of land owned by Grady EMC where the main office and communications tower are located to I-1, which is the light industrial zone, and the remaining property owned by the utility will remain as currently zoned, which includes both commercial and residential zones.
The motion approved last week stipulates the limited use provision in the city code and should Grady EMC cease to exist, merge with another utility, or be sold, the zoning would revert to the original zoning status.
EMC President T.A. Rosser appeared before the council and read a statement concerning the background of the utility’s rezoning request.
Rosser pointed out that last fall when the EMC sought a permit to construct the tower, Mayor Richard VanLandingham encouraged the EMC to work with telecommunications companies and allow them to attach to the EMC’s new tower in hopes of reducing the number of cell towers within the city.
The EMC president said that when AT&T made application for a permit to attach to the EMC tower, the application was denied by the city because the EMC property was not properly zoned.
According to the city code, public utilities must be zoned I1 and in order to legally lease tower space on a communications tower it must be in an I1 zone.
“We never planned to request a rezoning,” Rosser said.
Once the EMC was told by the city it must apply for a rezoning, the decision was made to request all of the EMC property to be zoned I1, a move that drew ire from neighboring residents.
Rosser said the EMC has been “painted as the bad guys,” but he contends the utility was working in accordance with the instructions of the mayor, city manager and building department officials.
EMC Attorney Claire Chason said the utility has no plans for the nine-acre tract that is zoned for residential use and backs up to Magnolia Estates, and the EMC would not be opposed to leaving its zoning unchanged.
“We want to be good neighbors, we’ve been good neighbors. We are currently improving the facility to make it look nice. Our original request was to rezone it all I1, but there are other possibilities the city can consider. The main goal is to be able to lease space on the tower,” Ms. Chason said.
The city council also heard the concerns of neighborhood residents including Susan Gainous, Ed Self and Dr. Ron Spooner.
After hearing from both Rosser and the neighboring residents, Mayor VanLandingham asked why the EMC was seeking to zone off three tracts if the only reason for the rezoning was to accommodate the leasing of space on the new communications tower.
“If it was to just get the tower, why change all three. The neighbors made a request it not be done. Why not just ask for the office and there would have been no problem,” the mayor commented.
Rosser responded, “We didn’t want a zoning change, but we were told by the city this is what we had to do.” The EMC head said the city staff had sought the advice of City Attorney Thomas L. Lehman, but that the EMC and its legal counsel disagrees with his opinion.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas interrupted the dialogue between the mayor and Rosser to call for the vote on the motion offered by Mayor Pro Tem Kermit Gilliard.
The motion passed unanimously.

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