Citizens also expressed their concerns over the possible expansion of a cell phone tower at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting.

Marty Gordon
Contributing writer

Christiansburg leaders are clamping down on abuse of short-term parking spaces near the Montgomery County courthouse. Parking fines will be doubled along East Main Street from $25 to $50 beginning Tuesday.

The announcement comes a month after a manager of Angle’s Floral Shop complained that patrons coming to his store could not find a parking spot because of people spending a longer period of time at the courthouse were using the spaces. Currently the spots are marked for short term with a maximum of one-hour parking. They will soon be marked for “retail-use only.”

Tuesday night, town council announced a three-fold plan to ease local businesses concerns.

The parking problem has been an ongoing one since the courthouse opened five years ago. A short-term parking lot directly in front of the building has been marked for town hall use only and the Christiansburg Police Department has increased patrols in and out of the area.

Council has also marked five spots in front of town hall for town-business only.

Starting Tuesday, the town also plans to post additional signage pointing to the courthouse-designated parking spots directly behind the building.

Don Simpkins of Angle’s Floral Shop said on any given day that designated lot remains empty. He said last month people simply are not using that lot, and instead are parking in spots that are more convenient to them like the ones in front of his store.

“This makes it impossible for people to come into our business and others,” Simpkins said.

He honestly believes some businesses have closed and moved because of the ongoing parking problem.

Last month, council approved an increase in parking fines from $10 from $25, which was not directly connected to the parking problems. That increase took place to bring Christiansburg violations into line with others around the state. Now, those using the retail spaces for non-retail business face an even larger fine.

Five spaces are located along that part of East Main Street that are not for law enforcement or courthouse use. Council also agreed to better define the markings for those parking spots while increasing the fines.

Councilman Brad Stipes who serves on the town’s street committee said this is a good start and the group will continue to monitor the situation to see the result and what else the town can do to ease the problem.

A public hearing was also held Tuesday on the increased height to 110 feet of a cell phone tower on High Street at Shaeffer Memorial Baptist Church.

Neighbors were critical of the change and feared both health problems and a decrease in property values.

There currently is a wood pole at 70 feet with equipment on it, and the existing tower, according to a representative of Shentel who owns the equipment and is asking for the conditional use permit for a higher tower, was built in 1999. Max Wegard said Shentel is upgrading infrastructure throughout the region and the new tower would help to provide both new broadband service and an upgrade to cell service.

Shentel recently purchased Intelos phone service and is using the Verizon system to provide service to the area. All of this, according to Wegard, means more equipment is needed. In addition, he said the older wood pole is more of a danger to fall from high wind than the newly planned metal pole.

William Smith lives directly across from the church and the proposed cell tower site.

“My front porch is less than 110 feet from the location. If it falls, it would hit my porch,” he said.

Smith also expressed concern that it would be detrimental to property values in the neighborhood and would cause health problems. “My research shows that the more micro equipment that is added, then there is more of a chance for cancer for people living nearby,” he said.

Another High Street resident, Pete Whitlock, also expressed concern that the higher tower would degrade the historic properties nearby at the church and community center. “The tower is not healthy for the church and neighborhood,” he said.

Council took no action on the matter, but do expect to discuss it further at its next scheduled meeting.

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