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County votes to deny cell phone tower

LAWRENCEVILLE - Beth Underwood will finally be able to sleep at night.

For months, she's stayed up worrying about the effect a proposed 155-foot cell phone tower next to her home would have on her property. When county commissioners voted to deny it Tuesday, Underwood burst into tears.

"I'm so happy this is over," she said. "I really stood to lose a lot of money from this."

The Underwoods live on Coopers Pond Drive in Lawrenceville, a street that backs up to the Gwinnett Community Church on Arnold Road. The church agreed to allow a 155-foot-tall monopine communications tower in their yard to improve T-Mobile service in the area, but nearby residents said the tower would be an eyesore that would dramatically decrease their property values and could prove dangerous for children.

More than 100 neighbors came to oppose the cell tower, talking about the tight community atmosphere they feel and the fact that residents at a community meeting didn't seem to have trouble with their T-Mobile service.

Sarran Marshall, who represented T-Mobile, said the company tries to find sites that do not affect homes. Of the 105 T-Mobile sites in the county, only 15 have been built - the other 90 are placed on rooftops or existing structures, he said.

Clare Phyfer, a Deer Isle Cove resident who also said the cell tower would have affected her quality of life, said she was thrilled that commissioners denied it.

"Would you buy a house with a cell phone tower in the backyard? I certainly wouldn't," she said. "I'm absolutely ecstatic, to say the least."

Underwood said there was so much opposition to the request because neighbors knew there would be a trickle-down effect on their own property values if the tower was to loom over nearby houses. Residents asked realtors about the value and sent a balloon 125 feet in the air to simulate the tower's height, Coopers Pond Drive resident Brian Martin said.

"It may be approaching the holiday season, but I'm not interested in seeing an unlit Christmas tree hovering 75 feet above the tree line," he said.