After negotiating its way through the city's planning board twice, AT&T's rezone request for installation of a cell tower near Shawnee Middle School was heard by Shawnee City Commissioners this week.
The ordinance was approved, 5-1-1, to rezone the property just south of West 45th Street behind Northside Veterinary Hospital, which sits on the north section of that property. Ward 3 Commissioner James Harrod voted against the proposal and Ward 1 Commissioner Ed Bolt abstained.
AT&T — facing opposition to its goal to install a cell tower near a residential area — finally received a nod from Shawnee Planning Commissioners after making some changes to its original plan. Before the recent revisions, the request had been denied by Planning Commissioners, flanked by several area residents who are against the proposal.
Health, safety and aesthetics were cited among concerns, as well as the fear of declining property values.
Due to space restraints, changes were made the original cell tower height of 140 feet — now reduced to 120 feet, making the fall radius smaller — and changing the antenna to a three-section pole had the biggest impact on getting the City Planner's office on board.
Assistant City Planner Joseph Barker said the setbacks for placement of the tower in the property were the department's main concern regarding the original request.
AT&T also shifted the placement of the antenna a bit to the northeast, which put the site farthest east from the residential area as it could go.
Many residents suggested the company simply go somewhere else in the area. Applicant Troy 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.
Ward 6 Commissioner Ben Salter said he examined a three-mile radius around the intersection at Kickapoo and 45th Street and discovered there are 46 cell towers of varying heights — from 32 feet to 200 feet — already in that area.
“I found out there's 185 registered antenna towers in Shawnee,” he said. “I think they're all over the place, but we just don't see them when we're driving around.”
He added, “two of AT&T's towers handle more data on a daily basis than any other tower in Oklahoma.”
Barker said the revisions AT&T recently made — plus completion of several other conditions on the table — meet all the city's zoning requirements.
Williams said the project is a $400,000 investment into the community.