The Prescott City Council voted to adopt an ordinance on the rezoning of a residential property to build a cell tower in a 7-1 vote, but not until after a long debate after receiving a letter threatening legal action if they approved it.
Last month during a public hearing the Council voted to create the ordinance that was also in a 7-1 vote, both times Council Member Susie Meeks being the only one to vote “no.”
The cell tower will be placed on the property of Robert and Laura Glass and will bring better internet access and cell service to every citizen of Prescott, but a letter was recently sent to the Council that threatened legal action based on an ordinance from 1979.
“We all received a letter in our packet,” Council Member Jerry Hightower said to the other council members. “I want to remind you that approximately three years ago we were sitting right there at that table and we had a rezoning issue that we voted on. If we are in violation now of Ordinance number 2 of 1979 why are we not in violation then?”
Hightower was bringing up an ordinance they voted on back on September of 2019 where they rezoned the property of the owner of Brad Scott’s Addition, Jimmy Brown, from a light industrial property to a Low-Density Residential property. Back then, the council unanimously voted to approve the ordinance and the rezoning of Brown’s property.
“I do not like having a council that is not consistent to a standard, so which standard are going to uphold?” Hightower asked the council. “One that we set precedence three years ago or one we get a letter from because they can see the tower from their back porch?”
Council Member Ivory Curry further backed up Hightower’s opinion on the issue.
“Everyone on the council were deeply involved with the decisions when we voted 7-1 last meeting,” Curry said. “I would like to accept this ordinance and move forward. I’m 1/8th of the Council so I’m going to be consistent. I am going to do what we did with Jimmy Brown because we set the precedence. If I had a reason to vote against this, I would, but after searching everything, I just want to do what’s best for Prescott.”
But Council Member Patricia Roberts, while having previously voted to approve of the rezoning last meeting and agreeing with Hightower and Curry about sticking with a standard, was concerned about the legal action that was threatened.
“I read this [letter] and I don’t want to break any laws,” she said. “I don’t want to go to prison and I don’t want to go to jail. They say that it constitutes action and action means that something will happen. I want to be consistent as well, but I want our city attorney to advise us before we do something. I want to do what’s right.”
Council Member Howard Austin also wanted the City Attorney, Glenn Vasser, to clear things up for them, suggesting that they hold off on approving the ordinance until after he could attend a future meeting.
“Why don’t we wait and wait and make another meeting where he can be here so we can all be on the same page?” Austin said. “We need our attorney to be here so we can put everything on the table.”
Meeks, who was the only one to vote “no” on the rezoning during the public hearing last month, says that she spoke with four people from Ridgewood that did oppose the cell tower that weren’t at the meeting, but Hightower and Curry said that they spoke to even more that wanted it.
“I come from a military background, I come from a standard,” Hightower said. “In other words you have a standard and you live by that standard and you didn’t deviate from that standard. We set precedence three years ago on making a decision as a council when we rezoned a piece of property from commercial to residential and nobody had a problem with it but now all of a sudden somebody has a problem with a 100 foot by 100 foot square on another man’s piece of property.”
Ultimately, after further discussing, the council decided not to hold off until a future meeting and voted 7-1 that night, Meeks again voting against the rezoning.