Archive for Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Tower plans withstand city inquiry

July 19, 2000

The city will not pursue any legal action to prohibit a 150-foot telecommunications tower in downtown Baldwin on the advice of city attorney Bob Bezek. However, a handful of citizens, including neighbors of the tower, plan to continue their protest of the tower's construction.

The Voicestream (formerly Aerial) tower was reluctantly approved by the Baldwin City Planning Commission in June. Planning commissioner Danny McMillen said the planning commission's only choice was approval, because the tower met all city regulations.

Bezek agreed with the planning commission's decision.

"The location of the tower meets city zoning without a question," Bezek said at Monday night's City Council meeting. "More importantly, we are at the stage where a building permit has been issued. We'd have to know we were right. We'd have to be able to justify it at a high level. We'd have to have a darn good reason, not a pretty good one, or we'd be subject to a lawsuit."

The tower's planned location is at Sixth and High streets, inside the tow lot of Bell Automotive. Representatives of Selective Site Consultants, the company installing the tower, said other locations were surveyed in the area and the downtown Baldwin location was considered the best.

"They checked all the towers around," McMillen said of the company's search for an opportunity to co-locate on an existing tower. "They do want to be as close as they can to the Baker campus, where they expect a majority of their clients are, or will be."

The tower will be surrounded by a privacy fence, and will be sunk nearly 25 feet into the ground so that no cable will be required for support.

Nancy Crist who owns property a house away from the tow lot said she and other residents were not notified of the tower's construction. She said she is willing to pursue the matter in court.

"None of the neighboring property owners received official notification," Crist said. "We are extremely concerned about our property values. We are concerned this is going to lower our property values."

Bezek said a private citizen could protest the location of the tower. An adjacent land owner would have the most relevant argument, he said.

"There are avenues you can pursue that are off the board for the city," he said. "Were we to get involved, we'd be creating a lot of problems for ourselves."

Annie France, who organized a petition against the tower, said she also will continue her fight against the tower. She asked city officials if the tower's proximity to historic buildings had been considered. City administrator Larry Paine said the tower would have to be located within 500 feet of a registered historic place, and the closest buildings are on the Baker University campus. France also asked if the city could offer land owned by the city to the company for the tower. Bezek said that would be illegally interfering with a contract.

"It seems obnoxious that they can come in, build a tower and walk away," France said. "They don't have to look at it. I don't want to give up, and I won't."

The only thing the city can do is revise its regulations regarding towers, which it plans on doing. In the meantime, the city has set a moratorium, and no more towers can be built until zoning tower regulations are reviewed. Other companies have inquired about building a tower since the moratorium was set, said Mayor Stan Krysztof.

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