Residents oppose cell tower proposed for corner of Main and Elmwood

ccope@thestate.comJuly 6, 2013 

Tazwell

JASON DOIY — iStockphoto.com

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    What: Board of Zoning Appeals

    When: 10 a.m. Tuesday

    Where: Eau Claire Print Building

— A cellphone and Internet company wants to install a 90-foot cell tower at the corner of Main Street and Elmwood Avenue, and nearby neighborhood groups are objecting.

Clear Talk, which offers flat-rate cellphone service plans, applied to put a tower at 2101 Main St. and use it as a flagpole.

The tower would stand in front of the store to provide better data service, said Mike Feigenbaum, development manager for Clear Talk.

The tower would be installed where a fountain once was on the property owned by Elmwood Park Inc. It could also be used by other phone companies Clear Talk chooses to contract with, such as AT&T, Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile.

Sharing cellphone towers reduces the total number of towers in an area, Feigenbaum said.

The Board of Zoning Appeals can only approve the pole if it meets certain conditions, including not substantially detracting from the aesthetics and character of nearby neighborhoods and properties.

But residents of the Cottontown/Bellevue Historic District and the Earlewood neighborhood oppose the tower.

“We just don’t think that a 90-foot cell tower that’s probably about 2 feet wide is going to add anything to the aesthetics of the neighborhood,” said Ellen Cooper, president of the Cottontown/Bellevue Historic District Neighborhood Association.

A cellphone tower at a busy intersection can be problematic, said Rebecca Haynes, president of the Earlewood Community Citizens Organization.

“That’s a major intersection, so it’s a big centerpiece of the community that we’re trying to improve,” Haynes said.

In a letter to the board, Haynes said the tower will be a safety hazard on the corner of the busy intersection.

As a safety precaution, a structural engineer must write a letter to the zoning administrator certifying that the tower will not fall in the road or on the sidewalk should it fail structurally. Elmwood Avenue is the city’s busiest street.

Even if the zoning board approves the tower, the State Historic Preservation Office must issue a letter saying the design would not have an adverse effect on nearby properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

In addition, the city’s Design Development Review Commission would have to approve the design before a zoning permit would be issued because the cell tower would be visible from several landmarked buildings, Elmwood Park and the Cottontown/Bellville Historic Districts.

The zoning board will consider Clear Talk’s proposal at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Reach Cope at (803) 771-8657.

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