By Wesley Edwards
On October 10, 2017 at the Northampton County Board of Supervisors meeting it became public knowledge that A&N Electric had built a 180 ft communications tower in Northampton County without the required special use permit. At that meeting Northampton County agreed to process an after the fact request for that permit.
Tuesday night it was reported that the planning commission had unanimously denied the special use permit stating that Mr. Jeff Walker’s existing airplane runway would be unusable if they allowed the 180ft communications tower to remain in place.
Mr. Butch Williamson President and CEO of A&N Electric appeared at the Tuesday night meeting asking for the tower to be approved in order to continue the upgraded service to Northampton County. Kelvin Pettit of A&N told the supervisors that they had built the tower on co-op property under advice from their counsel that they were exempt, but once that ruling changed they immediately applied to Northampton for the special use permit. Pettit told the supervisors that the County could not grant clear airspace to a private airport such as Mr. Jeff Walker’s.
Walker told the supervisors that he has a letter that states the tower is in the most advantageous spot but the letter did not say it was the only spot for the tower. Walker explained to the supervisors that his runway has been in place for more than 35 years and a tower has only been there 6 months rendering his runway unusable. Walker also told supervisors and the A&N representatives that if the tower was moved 1000 feet in either direction it would be acceptable to him with the response from Pettit being that the co-op does not own 1000 feet on either side of its current location.
During the discussion between Walker and A&N, it was revealed that A&N had offered to move the runway which was rejected by Walker. In Walker’s closing remarks he told the supervisors that he had not been treated fairly and that they should vote no to the special use permit.
In Kelvin Pettit’s closing remarks he asked the supervisors to consider if an adjoining property owner can restrict his neighbor’s use and reminded them that A&N’s legal counsel had advised them that they own the property and have rights.
Supervisors then each in their own way apologetically told A&N that procedures had to be followed and that they were reluctantly going to vote no to the special use permit. At that point supervisor Larry LeMond asked A&N what would they have done if they had applied for the special use permit before the fact and had been turned down and he got the answer they would be doing the same thing.
LeMond then made the motion to deny the special reissue request with a second from Granville Hogg. The motion passed unanimously.
It was then explained that A&N has 30 days to appeal to the Circuit Court but would be sent a “notice to comply” which basically means remove the tower.