Arizona Neighborhood Plots Against Small Cells


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As AT&T prepares to install small cell towers in the Dunbar Spring section of Tucson, some residents have expressed grave concerns, reports The Court Street Cemetery occupied the site from 1875 until 1909 when the city relocated it in favor of using the land for housing. Some current occupants believe that installing cell poles shows a disrespect for this already compromised hallowed ground.

“The city already allowed the desecration of the cemetery 100 years ago,” said Dunbar Spring homeowner Bradford Trojan. “It’s pretty simple: Don’t disturb the dead.” Trojan’s home is one of many that the city built in the early 20th century, and Homer Thiel of Desert Archaeology speculates that each residential plot still holds 90-to-100 graves that the city never moved. 

“They have to be very careful with how they dig the hole” for the pole, Thiel said. “There’s a high chance they could strike a grave.” Past projects in the area have unearthed graves, and AT&T has an archeological monitor on site, as per its agreement with the city of Tucson. The design of the units includes a streetlight to help counter aesthetic concerns, but the Dunbar Spring Neighborhood Association and the Dunbar Coalition say they are not receptive to any cell tower development.

“This tower, and other towers being installed in predominantly or historically African American and Hispanic neighborhoods, are a threat to public safety, privacy, property values, and quality of life,” the group stated in a letter to the city.

Ward 6 City Councilman Steve Kozachik responded, saying that 549 applications to deploy small cell units have been filed since 2017, and there is little the city can do to stop them. He’s lobbied to co-locate units where possible and supported a recent ordinance requiring AT&T and others to show they’ve investigated all options when selecting residential cell tower locations, noted

AT&T spokesperson Dale Ingram noted that his company bases its decisions on “several factors, including the capacity needs of our customers and the availability of suitable structures to place the antennas.”

In addition to citing historical objections, Trojan also pointed out that he was unhappy with AT&T’s placement, noting that the telecom planned to place a tower, “pretty much where the mailbox is,” adding: “I don’t feel comfortable living 20 or 30 feet from a cell tower.”

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