AT&T's plan to build a cell tower near Shawnee Middle School continues to be on shaky ground as uneasy neighbors fight the request; Shawnee City Commissioners — though they conducted the scheduled public hearing Monday — chose to defer the item.
The Shawnee Planning Commission had initially denied recommendation for the rezone request, but Assistant City Planner Joseph Barker said since the March 6 meeting, staff, contractors and the applicant have worked to reach what they believe may be an agreeable solution.
Planning Commissioners will revisit the request May 1 at their next regular meeting.
The conditional-use permit for the construction of a cell tower did not originally gain support from a majority of Shawnee Planning Commissioners this month.
The proposed site was originally on the south section of 125 West 45th Street; Northside Veterinary Hospital sits on the north section of the property. Applicant Troy Williams has since said the monopole would be moved to the northeast corner of the property.
Barker said there were several conditions that needed to be met to obtain a permit. One of the issues was that the proposed 140-foot monopole did not have quite enough of the necessary space in its radius, if it were to fall over. Williams said the proposed tower is designed to collapse on itself. One of the concessions Williams brought to the table (after the denial) was the decision to reduce the tower's height to 120 feet, making the required radius acceptable.
The shortening of the monopole — and moving it to the northeast corner of the property — rectifies concerns previously aired about a building on backside of SMS campus that was close to the tower's fall radius. That field house, at times, is occupied by students for after-school programs.
Many residents have suggested the company simply go somewhere else in the area. Williams said a problem AT&T has had, however, is finding adequate space while still being able to provide coverage in the desired neighborhood.
“Older cities like Shawnee traditionally have smaller lots,” he said.
Williams also said his first goal was to co-locate with an existing tower, but there wasn't one in the service area in question.
Regarding aesthetics, Williams said studies have shown property values have risen and the highest growth has occurred where the best coverage is.
He said the project is a $400,000 investment into the community.
Eight residents — two through letters to the planning office and six at the planning meeting — have voiced opposition. Health, safety and aesthetics were cited among concerns, as well as the fear of declining property values.
In a letter, Linda White cited alleged health risks to those who live nearby cell towers; alleged negative effects on property values of homes near the tower; the tower not being aesthetically pleasing in the eyes of the property owner; and alleged possible interference with other personal electronic signals (televisions, computers, etc.).
The Housing Authority of the Sac and Fox Nation also submitted a letter of protest recommending the application be rejected, claiming that the cell tower would create safety issues for tenants located in the nearby neighborhood, would possibly effect property values in a negative manner, and that the tower would not benefit the neighborhood aesthetically, and possibly interfere with other personal electronic signals.
Property owners at the meeting shared many of the same concerns.
Planning Commissioner Link Cowan said people in central Oklahoma are not like those in bigger cities.
He said here they are more concerned with how things appear outside their windows than how dependable things like coverage of local cell and internet service are.
The planning board voted 5-1-1 to deny the request; Planning Commissioner Tom Rowell abstained.
Planning Commissioner Daniel Matthews, the no vote, said he would have preferred it if the agenda item had instead been deferred.
The amended request now heads back to Shawnee Planning Commissioners May 1. After that City Commissioners will address the item again.
Watch for updates.