published Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Cell tower approval conditional

By Paul Leach

CLEVELAND, Tenn.—The Cleveland Municipal Planning Commission voted 7-1 this week to approve, with a few stipulations, conceptual plans for a Verizon Wireless cell tower downtown.

The proposed 80-foot tower, to be located at the Peerless Communications Facility at 1455 Stuart Ave. NW, still faces concerns regarding zoning regulations and visibility. The planning commission requires those issues be resolved before granting final approval.

“We are voting on a concept, not looking at a design,” said City Councilman David May, the only planning commissioner to vote against the cell tower plan.

The planned placement is at odds with a zoning ordinance that requires it to be at least 240 feet from property boundaries, according to Cleveland Community Development Director Greg Thomas. The distance is based on three times the structure’s height, per zoning requirements.

Verizon needs the 80-foot tower to better serve an increasing amount of local cell phone traffic and personal data device usage, said Philip Head, a Nashville real estate attorney representing the company.

The technology requires lines of sight between cellular devices and supporting towers to be effective, he said.

The Zoning Board of Appeals will need to grant a variance to Verizon Wireless before the cell tower proposal comes back to the commission for another vote, according to conditions set by the city planners.

The proposed cell tower, which would occupy space near the intersection of Keith and 17th streets, also faces potential opposition from the city’s Greenway Board and Historic Preservation Commission because of its visibility in the surrounding residential area, historic district and greenway.

Verizon could disguise the tower with a number of “stealth” designs, such as a clock tower or a sign, Head said. He said brickwork might be used around the base, possibly complemented with a picnic area.

The planning commission vote stated that all three involved parties — Verizon, the Greenway Board and the Historic Preservation Commission — reach an agreement before city planners give final approval to the cell tower.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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