Cellphone Tower Easements To Be Voted On by South Jacksonville Board At Special Meeting

By Benjamin Cox on November 3, 2023 at 2:25pm

Utility easements are the last piece to be worked out between the Village of South Jacksonville’s Board of Trustees and AT&T to get a new cellphone tower constructed in the village.

The Village of South Jacksonville administration issued a building permit for AT&T to build the tower at 317 West Vandalia on October 4th. MasTec Communications will be the contractor for the project.

AT&T’s Director of External & Legislative Affairs Chris Warwick was at the Village’s Board of Trustees meeting last night requesting the village grant 4 separate utility easements to the property.

One easement would cut down the middle of Sequoia Drive, another would take out a sliver of village-owned property on the southwest corner of the Vandalia property. The other two would be on the east side of the property for electricity and fiber optic cables to be ran to the tower.

Village President Dick Samples says two of the four easements are moot, as he doesn’t believe one of the pieces of ground is on village property and the other easement for Sequoia Drive was surveyed incorrectly by AT&T. Samples said during the meeting that because Sequoia Drive is a public street, it already has 10-foot wide utility easements on either side. WLDS News is working to verify the correct classification of Sequoia Drive with the Morgan County Plat Map to see if the street is classified as a public right of way or still listed as a private drive.

Warwick told the Board of Trustees that the easements are holding up the construction: “With all these easements, the most important part is that once the tower is up, we need to be able to get access to the tower either for vehicles to service the tower to make replacements, upgrades; and then also the utility easements just to make sure that we can get our utilities in there, both fiber and electric, depending upon who provides those for us.”

The Village Board ultimately decided to place the fate of the easements into the hands of Village Attorney Rob Cross and AT&T’s legal counsel to come up with a solution. Samples says the board of trustees will decide if they like the solution the attorneys come up with: “It’s entirely up to the attorneys and AT&T to come back and present an ordinance that is agreeable to the five trustees.”

Samples’ says his opinion on the easements remains the same: “My personal opinion was not to allow AT&T to have any of them…any of the easements.”

Warwick revealed to the Board last night that possibly three more cellphone carriers could lease space on the tower in the future. Samples says his concern is that the easements would fall into the hands of another company, as public easements remain in perpetuity and could cause further issues well into the future.

A vote on the solution proffered by the attorneys on both sides is expected to be presented and voted on at a special meeting scheduled for after the Village’s committee of the whole on November 16th.