Archives

Change is hard

by YES! Staff

Winston-Salem might be the City of Arts and Innovation, but a more parochial form of neighborhood politics rules.

A proposal by AT&T and a company that operates cell-phone transmission towers has been wending its way towards city council for months. Having cleared a crucial hurdle through a vote before the City-County Planning Board, the proposed ordinance change finally made an appearance before the city council’s general government committee last week.

Wireless data use has exploded in recent years, especially since many of us have upgraded to smart phones in the past two or three years. Many people under the age of 35 have never even bothered to hook up a landline. We’re not only talking on our phones, but we’re streaming music, sharing photos, video-conferencing watching Saturday Night Live clips; and interfacing with each other on Facebook, Twitter and myriad other social media sites.

Naturally, with data needs expanding from the major highways and commercial corridors, service providers will need to upgrade their infrastructure to follow their customers into residential neighborhoods.

AS RAILROADS WERE TO THE 1880S, TODAY THE COMMUNITIES WITH GOOD ACCESS TO THE INTERNET WILL BE THE MOST COMPETITIVE.

Naturally, with data needs expanding from the major highways and commercial corridors, service providers will need to upgrade their infrastructure to follow their customers into residential neighborhoods.

AT&T and American Towers LLC want to lift a ban on cell phone towers in residential areas. Planning Director Paul Norby told council members that neighboring Greensboro allows cellphone towers in residential areas up to 80 feet; under the proposed ordinance change in Winston-Salem the towers would be allowed up to 180 feet. Approval of new towers would be handled by a zoning board of adjustment, comprised of citycounty staff, as opposed to a typical rezoning request, which can take months to complete.

“These residential neighborhoods that we’re talking about are our constituents,” Councilwoman Molly Leight said last week. “They’re our neighborhoods. And to allow the ZBA, a body that’s not elected, to make that sort of decision is not something that I think most of us are going to be happy with.”

Neighborhoods also tend to function as highly activated voting blocs, and in municipal elections that typically draw about 10 percent of the electorate, one or two angry neighborhood groups can easily change the outcome of a contest. And in Winston-Salem, as in most parts of the state, the electorate skews older. Residents in the 65+ demographic who vote at the highest rates likely have land lines in their houses and don’t see much use for smart phones. But they don’t like cell-phone towers, which are considered intrusive.

As railroads were to the 1880s, today the communities with the communities with the best access to high-speed internet are going to be the most competitive. News organizations will need to deliver content to readers on hand-held devices. Businesses processing X-rays and medical records that transmit data faster than their competitors will get more work. If Winston-Salem is going to retain its brand for innovation and successfully transition to a knowledge-based economy, the city will have to embrace technology. !

YES! WEEKLY chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration .

Share: