ELLIS COUNTY — William and Michelle Stripland were ready to follow their dream to move to North Padre Island and open a barbeque shack. All they had to do was sell their house near Red Oak.
But after they found a perfect buyer, their dream suddenly came to a screeching halt — all because of a tall cell phone tower.
If the tower were to fall, it could easily crush the house next door; that's why the Federal Housing Administration won't approve loans for houses so close to such structures.
The Striplands put their house up for sale in January. Seven months later, the tower was erected about 75 feet away.
They knew it wouldn't be easy to sell their home until they met Jacob Sands.
"It was not a bother at all," Sands said.
The Sands family wanted the Striplands' house. But with the looming tower so close, their Realtor told them they should keep looking.
"She did have a whim about it," Sands said. "She was 90 percent certain that it would fall against an FHA loan's qualifications. So she advised us to start looking at other properties."
The Striplands are in unincorporated Ellis County. There are no zoning laws here.
Cell phone companies usually lease their towers from third parties. In this case, AT&T uses the tower.
The Striplands are frustrated. They claim the tower has created a hardship for them with no recourse.
"People are going to be looking for a house in this kind of price range," William Stripland said. "They're going to wind up going for an FHA or VA loan, and they're not going to be approved for it. So basically, our house is not going to be sold."
The FHA refers to cell towers a a potential hazard and nuisance.
For the Striplands, their towering neighbor couldn't be more of a nuisance. "We had people who wanted to buy the house, and they got approved for more than what we were asking for," said Michelle Stripland. "And they can't buy the house."
The Striplands' lawyer, Frank Cawley, told News 8 the cell tower has destroyed the couple's ability to sell their house, and someone should be held accountable.
"It's depressing to us," William Stripland said. "Now, basically, we're stuck here."