Two Against One: Police Chief and Planning Commission vs. Residents

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During a two-hour public hearing, Glen Carbon’s Planning and Zoning Commission ultimately approved a special use permit, applied for by Verizon Wireless, to build a 100-foot tower, after a motion to deny it failed. The Edwardsville Intelligencer reported that residents called the proposed tower “sight pollution” and were passionate about not eroding the village’s charm and character.

Scott Gobel, a real estate site acquisitor spoke on behalf of Verizon, explained the new tower is meant to take some of the cell phone load from a nearby, 80-foot tower and to provide better, overall coverage. Gobel said he and Jeremy Wall, an RF engineer also in attendance on behalf of Verizon, examined other structures in the area zoned for agriculture, which is part of the village’s requirements for any new cell towers. 

They examined the city’s water tower, another cell phone tower and a 175-foot tall tower that were erected before the village’s current zoning legislation was enacted. All were either too far away to provide needed coverage, would interfere with other equipment, or both, reported the Intelligencer.  

“We don’t build towers willy-nilly; we have a specific purpose for our towers,” Gobel told the audience and commissioners. He said the chosen site also has plenty of mature trees to screen the tower for most of the year.

Still, residents claimed the tower would not meet the village’s special use permit criteria and proposed alternatives to get the coverage needed. Suggestions included making the tower in nearby Miner Park taller; using small cell antennas mounted on street lights, road signs or mailboxes; adding boosters to the village police vehicles, or using a Distributed Antenna System.

According to Wall, “We could do small cells but it’s too expensive for Verizon.” A camouflaged monopole would limit the needed coverage, Gobel and Wall added. Kevin Robison, a third-party expert retained by village officials concurred with Wall’s findings, reported the Intelligencer.

Additionally, according to Police Chief Todd Link, his officers do not have wireless area network (WAN) access/coverage in many places within the village and have not since at least 2014, when he took over the Police Chief position. Link emphasized during the public hearing that he has no preference how a solution is achieved. He added that two small cell antennas were installed but they did not improve matters and boosters would only work from the tower to the vehicles, not vice-versa.

Link also noted that when an officer’s vehicle enters an area without coverage, it renders the computers and other electronic devices useless. It also means the station does not know the officer’s location. “We don’t have the luxury of jumping ship from Verizon to anyone else,” Link told everyone. “We are tied to Illinois, which is tied to Verizon.”

The permit will now go to the village board of trustees for approval or denial at its February 12 meeting, reported the Intelligencer.

January 21, 2019

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