The Economic Development Authority of Amherst County understands how vital telecommunications are to businesses and are unanimously opposed to the proposed Amherst County ordinance that will require all new cell towers to go through a special permitting process requiring two public hearings as well as additional cost and time because of the potential negative impacts to businesses. The reasons for this decision are:
- The draft Economic Development Strategic Plan clearly demonstrated that the number one obstacle to Amherst County businesses growing and expanding is telecommunications. Business considers high speed internet and cell phone coverage an absolute necessity and the federal government now considers internet a utility like power and water.
- The Plan also suggests modifying our current ordinances and policies to encourage improved telecommunications and said it is a paramount business and quality of life issue. The idea is to remove government obstacles to growth, not create new ones. This proposed ordinance will make it a much harder, longer, and involved process to get new cell towers approved and built in Amherst, which is a major concern for business.
- Better communications in all parts of the county are requisite to attaining employment, investment, and tax base which support the economic development goals and objectives of the Amherst County Comprehensive Plan and the draft Economic Development Strategic Plan.
- Quality of life issues are extremely important in retaining and attracting employers because they must operate in an environment where their workforce wants to live. It is also important to the County to an attractive place to live, as the workforce will pay taxes, serve in leadership roles, support local businesses, etc. Today, a place without good cell phone and internet connection is not as attractive as one which has connectivity. People simply rely on communications as a necessity, especially the younger work force.
- The cell tower will support the connectivity requirement for people working from home. Similarly, connectivity provides the opportunity for people to start a home-based business that has the potential to expand into a permanent facility in Amherst County as the business grows.
- This proposed ordinance will send a strong message that Amherst County is not business friendly. The strategic plan business surveys showed that most business owners already believe Amherst is not business friendly and this ordinance will add to that perception.
- In comparing Amherst County cell tower ordinances to other localities in Region 2000 as well as Nelson County, the proposed ordinance will take Amherst from one of the more business friendly processes to the most unfriendly business process in the region.
- Amherst stands to lose new businesses. New and expanding businesses will not locate in a community without high speed internet & good cell phone coverage. As an example, there is a current area business owner that approached Amherst about the potential of expanding his business but stated he would not move to a location that did not have high speed internet and cell phone coverage.
- Cell service is vital for emergency situations. This capability will be a requirement for most people moving into the county, as well as those already living here.
The EDA has grave concerns that the proposed ordinance will have significant negative consequences for our current businesses, businesses considering moving to Amherst, and the entrepreneurs who are starting a new business.