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Cell tower proposal looms over Greenfield residences

City considers issues of aesthetics and need in weighing impact

Oct. 22, 2013

Greenfield — A 70-foot AT&T cell phone tower is proposed for a residential neighborhood of Greenfield, and city officials are worried about the impact it will have on residents.

Normally, the city tries to keep cell towers away from homes because of aesthetics. Cell towers aren't allowed on land zoned residential.

But this tower — a single pole with a series of vertical antennas arranged in a circle around the top — would be on a patch of land zoned commercial for a neighborhood bar. And because of a new state law, communities can no longer deny permission for cell towers based on aesthetics.

"This is completely new for us because of the residential neighborhood around it," said Chuck Erickson, Greenfield's economic development and planning director.

Equally dismayed is Mayor Michael Neitzke.

"Putting up a seven-story tower in a number of people's backyards is probably not the best thing," Neitzke said with a note of sarcasm.

But Greg Schneider, owner of the Corner Club, 4309 Grange Ave., where the pole would be, sees it as a plus for the neighborhood that he said is pretty much a dead zone for cellphones.

"I talk to a lot of people and they all want better service," said Schneider, who has owned the bar with his wife for nearly 10 years. Land lines are getting to be things of the past and people want good cellphone reception, he said.

To get a better feeling for what area residents want, the city advised AT&T to hold a neighborhood meeting prior to the Nov. 12 Plan Commission meeting.

To get better service for the area while avoiding a cell tower next to homes, city officials have been working with AT&T to see if there might be a more acceptable location for its tower, Neitzke said. But so far, no luck.

Another option discussed is a plan, which has worked with Sprint and Verizon, that involves attaching a series of smaller antennas to light poles, he said. But that went nowhere, also.

The option the city is pushing for now is for the tower to look better, he said. Sometimes cell towers are made to look like flagpoles in what is called a stealth tower design, meaning that the tower is made to look like something else. But what form a stealth tower might take in Greenfield is still unknown.

But Neitzke isn't optimistic.

"No matter what you do, it's still a seven-story tower in the middle of a residential neighborhood," he said.

Cellphone companies now have the upper hand in such requests because the State Legislature agrees with the industry argument that municipalities are trying to keep them out, said Neitzke , who doesn't necessarily subscribe to that theory.

The legislature might also have enacted the law stripping communities of most of their power over tower locations because of a realization that wireless is today's means of communication, he said.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: Plan Commission consideration of AT&T request for a cell phone tower surrounded by homes

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Nov. 12

WHERE: Greenfield City Hall, 7325 W. Forest Home Ave.

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