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Tower progress held up by environmental group

By By SHERRY DIGMON
Advance Staff Writer
The construction of a communications tower in Atmore is on hold, pending action by Friends of the Earth, a national environmental group. While the Atmore tower is not specifically targeted, it is part of a larger action by the group.
Crown Castle USA, Inc., received approval from the Atmore Board of Zoning Adjustments last October to erect a 225-foot cell tower at the corner of Ashley and Trammell streets. The tower was partially constructed, but no work has been done in weeks.
Rumors circulated last week that the Atmore Historical Society had initiated action to stop construction, but AHS President Dorothy Faircloth was quick to set the record straight.
But the Alabama Historical Commission has not taken any action either, according to Elizabeth Brown, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer.
Friends of the Earth, along with the Forest Conservation Council, filed an objection with the Federal Communications Commisson (FCC) to delay construction on a number of towers across the country, pending environmental studies by the agency. According to an article in USA Today on June 11, about 600 of the approximately 8,000 new towers built in the United States each year are in locations that require an environmental review.
Brown said the Alabama Historical Commission was involved in discussions concerning construction of the tower by Crown Castle USA and in subsequent discussions concerning a proposed tower at the Alabama Power Company building on the corner of Jackson and East Church streets.
In working with Crown Castle and then-Mayor Rodney Owens on the first tower, the commission's goal, Brown said, was to approve one tower tall enough to accommodate other carriers, rather than every carrier erecting its own tower.
Brown was under the impression that the Crown Castle tower had been constructed until she got a call from an Atmore resident last week who complained that his cell phone service is terrible and that it probably won't improve because the commission stopped construction on the tower.
At that point, Brown contacted Josh Elkins at Crown Castle who told her about the action by Friends of the Earth. Efforts to reach Elkins for comment Tuesday afternoon were not successful.
Likewise, a call to Friends of the Earth, Northeast Office, was not returned Tuesday afternoon.