Tower sparks city fireworks
A group of citizens angered by the Baldwin City Planning Commission's approval of a 150-foot telecommunications tower in downtown Baldwin appealed to the City Council on Monday night.
The tower was approved by the planning commission 4-0 in June, after being tabled for a month. A permit has since been issued for the Voicestream Wireless (formerly Aerial) tower, said Jim Tarwater, city inspector and zoning administrator.
Annie France, Baldwin City, said the tower would detract from the historic downtown district, and said an alternate location should be sought.
"I have a hard time believing that the lowest spot in the city is the best location," said France.
Planning commission chairman Larry Francq said the issue was tabled in May because members were concerned about the location, as well as the proposed 165-foot height. The maximum height allowed by city law is 150 feet.
However, when Selective Site Consultants the company installing the tower agreed to lower the tower to 150 feet, the commission's hands were tied, Francq said.
"There was no way we could stop it," he said. "The law said they were entitled to a tower. It is old zoning and these people met all the criteria."
Francq said the original intent of the city's zoning regulations was probably for a radio station tower or a communications tower for a small business.
"You weren't anticipating telecommunications towers," Franca said of the regulations.
Tarwater said a moratorium has been set, and no more towers can be built until the zoning regulations dealing with towers can be reviewed. Another company has inquired about installing a tower since the moratorium was set, Tarwater said.
"We put a moratorium on any further tower development," Francq said. "We will make some adjustments."
The tower is planned to be located at Sixth and High streets, inside the tow lot of Bell Automotive. Planning commissioners are requiring the company to build a wooden privacy fence around the tower and landscape the area.
Tarwater said the building permit can be revoked through an appeal in court, but it won't be easy in this situation, he said.
"It is very difficult when an ordinance allows something," he said. "When it is an allowed use and they come back with a plan that is conforming, I don't think the planning commission had any choice but to approve it."
Tarwater said the City Council does not have to approve a commercial structure, such as a telecommunications tower.
"People have the right to an appeal," Tarwater said. "I would say Selective Site Consultants was well prepared. They knew what they were asking for was legal and legitimate."
Trevor Wood, of Selective Site Consultants, said a survey showed the tow lot was the best location for the tower.
Wood said the tower will provide better service to Voicestream Wireless customers, and said other service providers would be able to co-locate on the tower.
The tower itself is a sleek design, without cable wire running to the ground.
"It will look like nothing more than a large utility pole," Wood said.
Wood said the tower land will be leased from Bell Automotive. The tower will be ready for construction following a bidding process, he said.
"There is nothing we can do, short of saying no and having them sue us," said Mayor Stan Krysztof.
France plans on meeting with city administrator Larry Paine, who is on vacation, next week, and contacting Selective Site Consultants. She is prepared to form a petition.
The city also will seek an opinion from its attorney, Bob Bezek.
"I hate the fact that we are going to cave, to say 'you have the right-of-way,'" France said.
Council president Marilyn Pearse said going to court could be futile.
"I hate the idea," Pearse said. "I also hate the idea of spending a lot of money to go to court and lose."