Council rails against proposed cell tower

Council rails against proposed cell tower

October 25th, 2010 by Harrison Keely in Local - Breaking News

Staff Photo by Harrison Keely/Chattanooga Times Free Press Matt Harris, a Nashville-based attorney representing Verizon, tries to convince Cleveland's city council that a controversial new tower is needed near the city's historic district.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The city council is combatting a proposed cellular tower meant to boost coverage in Cleveland's historic district.

The council decided Monday to send letters opposing the 80-foot monopole's suggested spot to the Tennessee Historical Commission and other regulatory authorities.

Representatives for Verizon, the company behind the tower, contend that the disputed site is essential.

"There is tremendous tension," said Matt Harris, a Nashville-based attorney representing Verizon, at Monday's city council meeting. "We kind of lucked up, just to be honest, in even finding this property."

If the proposed site can't be used, Verizon would have to build three additional towers in Cleveland just so a current tower could serve the historic district, he said.

Harris said the monopole won't ruin the district's view, adding that many "much more visible" obstructions already disturb the district's vista.

There are already eight towers and water tanks within about a mile of the district, not to mention some 80-foot power poles nearby, Jim Duncan, of Nashville-based Terracon, said.

Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said those utilities may soon go underground, making Verizon's tower a sore thumb.

"We have too many organized groups in our community plus individuals who do not want it to be there," he said. "If it was at vote today, I would veto it."

Duncan said he's only received three negative phone calls regarding the ad seeking public comment about the tower.

Harris said the tower won't even be seen from parts of the district, adding that the location would be heavily wooded and have attractive fencing.

Councilman Richard Banks said the proposed tower would be too close to the flightpath of medical helicopters flying to the hospital and would also be very near to a floodway.

But the tower must be built to facilitate higher data usage, with more cell phones replacing landlines in homes, and because Verizon's three existing towers in town are already "maxed out," Harris said.

The company's last Cleveland tower was built in 2005, he said.

"The world is very different now," Harris said. "Expectations concerning the use of wireless are very, very, very different now."

The new tower would also be able to accommodate two additional carriers, Harris said.

Verizon considered sharing other nearby towers, but couldn't do it, and only recently found land large enough for a tower, Harris said.

Banks, however, said he believes Verizon has made "insufficient efforts" to locate alternative sites or locate on existing towers.

"You cant just put up an 800-foot tower five miles outside of town and have it work," Harris said. "That is being ignorant of the realities of this technology."

Contact Harrison at hkeely@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6504.