South Norfolk Residents Battle Cell Tower Plan

A group of South Norfolk neighbors is waging a battle against a cell tower being erected in their midst.

Last spring letters were sent to South Norfolk landowners from Smartlink, a leasing agent for telecommunication companies, seeking property on which to place a cell tower. None of the homeowners in this residential neighborhood responded and thought that ended the matter.

However, Sloane Klevin, who owns a house at the corner of Old Goshen Road and Route 272, recently noticed trucks and people on vacant land opposite her property. Inquiring, she found there is a pending lease on the land and that the people were verifying that the parcel could support a cell tower, which could be as tall as 120 or 130 feet.

Investigating further, Klevin discovered that the land is owned by Michael Farrington, a Florida resident who inherited it and who has never set foot in Norfolk. “He didn’t even know there were neighbors,” she said. “It’s literally smack in front of everyone, but he sees this as a windfall.”

The neighbors contacted him to see if he would consider selling them the property. Klevin said the neighborhood includes environmentally sensitive elements such as a heron rookery and residents harbored the idea of donating it to the Norfolk Land Trust. “I told him his land is on a natural diversity map and we offered $100,000 for it,” she said.

Farrington responded with a figure of up to $300,000, beyond the reach of neighboring property owners.

Since that exchange, the neighbors have sought additional funding to procure the land, but even an offer of $200,000 has met with no success. “We realized he is playing us off Verizon,” said Klevin. 

The group approached an environmental lawyer, who advised that their best chance of forestalling the development is to find an alternate site for Verizon. Two less intrusive locations nearby, accessible from Route 272, have been identified but, to date, Smartlink and Verizon have not responded.

“We’re willing to file an intervention with the Siting Council and to propose other sites, but we can’t get through to them,” Klevin said. “Once they have found a site, they are not reachable.” 

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