Similar cell tower

The cell tower proposed for the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant B is similar in size to this tower near McDonald’s.

NORTH ROYALTON – A proposed Verizon cell tower at Wastewater Plant B was tabled after unanswered questions loom from both planning commission members and neighbors.

The 105-feet tower, similar to the one located near McDonald’s, is proposed at 11355 Sprague Road and is said to close some of the gaps in network coverage and enhance e-911, which is support for wireless users who dial 911.

Several residents, primarily from Cedar Estates, spoke out during the Dec. 4 planning meeting against the tower, which they feel is unsightly impacting property values, aesthetics and possibly even their health. Each time a neighbor ended their comments, the room erupted in applause.

“We have nearly 22 towers in North Royalton, surrounding cities such as Strongsville have almost half of that … What about investment to the city? What benefit would adding a tower bring to increase property values or hold them steady?” an Edgewood resident asked.

An Applewood resident, who is a chiropractor, just moved in to her home four months ago and expressed concerns from a health standpoint.

“There are 19 tower structures within two miles of our house. There are numerous studies suggesting that living close to a cell tower can increase risks of cancer up to 100 times if you live within 100 meters of a cell tower. We won’t be that close, but it’s still close enough,” she said.

“One-hundred feet is huge, 200 feet is unreasonable. It’s going to be a shadow in my backyard,” another Applewood resident added. “You can’t allow that to happen in our neighborhood.”

Nearly a decade ago, AT&T sought a similar project, which was rejected by planning and ultimately installed at Albion Elementary School.

Residents recommended alternate locations: co-locating at the Albion tower, the vacant 5/3 Bank site across from the Timber Ridge Plaza, the OMNI Senior Living community to be constructed near Sprague and York roads. Planning Commission Member Mayor Bob Stefanik asked about the possible use of existing towers at German Central near the same intersection.

“I guess my concern would be why aren’t those viable in this situation?” added Planning Commission Chairman Mayor-elect Larry Antoskiewicz referring to existing towers within the city.

Nathan Meyer, PBM Wireless Services LLC representing Verizon Wireless, admitted he and two of his colleagues were unaware of the Albion tower, located just over a mile from the proposed site, and that it, along with the other sites mentioned, would be reviewed more in depth to study that feasibility. Building Commissioner Dan Kulchytsky said a complete list of all existing towers in the city would be provided to him.

Meyer did address some of the residents’ concerns and what he called misconceptions, many of which feared the tower could be expanded to 200 feet in the future.

“The only reason that we’re showing that it is extendable to 200 feet is that your zoning ordinance requires that it be extendable for the purpose of co-location. Verizon does not need anything taller than a 100-foot site for their purposes. If you want to give relief of the zoning code that we don’t have to make this a co-locateable structure and it cannot be extended any taller, Verizon is fine with that,” Meyer said. “Typically, cities like to see that the structures are co-locateable so that someone else isn’t going to come along down the road and there’s not an existing structure for them to use.”

As for alleged health risks, Meyer cited the Telecommunication Act of 1996 which states there is no known health risks associated with sites like this when they are built and operate within the guidelines of the Federal Communications Commission, which Verizon does, he said. Meyer reminded that from a zoning perspective, the planning commission is not to consider health concerns of a site for zoning approval.

Law Director Tom Kelly asked if this tower negates the need for 5G small cell towers, which are taller than utility poles and work in conjunction with larger cell towers and are typically used near malls, stadiums, outdoor shopping center, etc., which Meyer said he would verify.

One resident became emotional at the end of the meeting and asked if the revenue the city would receive from the lease of land to Verizon, $18,000 a year, was swaying planning’s decision, and Kelly assured that was not the case.

“This is a $50-million-dollar corporation, OK, $18,000 a year doesn’t move the needle, it doesn’t pave a street for that matter,” Kelly said.

“We’re not trying to shove anything down anybody’s throat. We need to gather the facts, and we are going to continue to do that. We did it 10 years ago, and we are going to do it today,” Stefanik said, stressing that planning must allow the applicant to fully present their side before making a decision.

Meyer agreed to table the matter to gather more information. Residents near the project will be notified by mail when the applicant returns to planning, which would likely be February at the earliest.

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