O'Fallon residents don't want cell towers
Feb 17, 2013 (Belleville News-Democrat - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Last summer, Tena Swart and her neighbors prevented a 15-story cellphone tower from becoming an unwelcomed "beacon" to their neighborhood. Now the O Fallon residents hope new state legislation will prevent similar towers from being built near the backyards of other homeowners.
Swart and her neighbors were surprised in June when construction crews with American Towers, based in Boston, began clearing trees in preparation for building a 150-foot tall tower -- as close as 76 feet to one resident s back door. Neighborhood residents rallied in opposition and eventually AT&T called off plans to lease space on the tower.
"It would have been the beacon to my street if you will. ..." Swart said. "When you have someone drive unto our street the first thing they would see is the cell tower."
The struggle for residents was exasperated because their neighborhood lies within an unincorporated area of St. Clair County. While towers built within city limits face approval from local governments, there is little over sight to build such towers elsewhere.
"This can happen to anyone. ... People need to get a sense of Do I want this in my backyard Do I want my children potentially exposed to the (ice) fall zone or anyone other concerns " Swart said. "This legislation needs to be passed. We can t afford in the current economy to have anything else effect our home values."
The struggle prompted State Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, to introduce legislation prohibiting the construction of cell towers within 1,000 feet of a residentially zoned area or a municipal boundary unless approved by the municipality through an annexation agreement.
Kay said the primary purpose of the bill is to set off cellular phone towers or other communication towers "so residents can enjoy the privacy or normal enjoyment of their" homes. He added leaders with the city of O Fallon, St. Clair County Board and Illinois Municipal League support the intent of the legislation.
The tower would have been a "huge detriment" to home values in a tightly knit neighborhood mostly comprised of military families, Swart said. She added she believed military families deployed to another area would have ultimately been forced to "turn in the keys and turn away."
Cellular companies worry the legislation will impede their efforts to expand service by putting up more towers, Kay said. In response, Kay said AT&T is leading the industry s efforts to propose a "win-win" solution before the legislation is heard in committee in the beginning of March.
"To be very frank with you, at this point we are trying to find a middle ground that will not restrict these towers or make it impossible to put these towers up where they are needed," Kay said. "And yet, have something in place for homeowners butting up against these proposed towers."
Swart said residents advocating for the bill understand the need for towers, but believe residents must be protected as well.
"I m not anti-business. I strongly support cell tower companies conducting their business," Swart said. "Where I have to draw the line is when their business is decimating me and my community financially.
"This would also erode the community s tax base. It has far-reaching effects. I don t believe the legislation is in any way anti-business.
"It is just trying to add a buffer to avoid decimating a community in the process."
Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2501.
___ (c)2013 the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Ill.) Visit the
Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Ill.) at www.bnd.com Distributed by MCT
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]