The Andover City Council Nov. 19 on a 4-0 vote, with Councilmember Sheri Bukkila absent, approved two conditional use permit requests from Verizon Wireless to install cell phone antennas on two water towers, one in Rose Park and one by Andover City Hall.
The change will not be noticeable at the water tower by city hall, which is also next to the Andover YMCA/Community Center and the city’s public works facility.
“All the equipment will be housed in the base of the tower and all they would see is antennas on the water tower, which would be painted to match the water tower,” Community Development Director David Carlberg said.
On the other hand, Rose Park visitors will see the difference. There is not as much space in the base of this water tower to store all of Verizon Wireless’ equipment, Carlberg said, so a new 308 square-foot building is necessary.
The structure will be built just outside the rod iron fence that surrounds the water tower, he said. Verizon proposed a stone finish building with some rod iron fencing incorporated in the design to match this fence.
Councilmember Tony Howard would like to see three sides of the building be stone instead of only one side, however. The front of the building could have the rod iron gates, he said. The rest of the council agreed with Howard’s proposal that the city will pass onto Verizon Wireless.
When antennas go on top of water towers, revenue the city receives goes into the water utility fund, but a portion of the revenue for the Rose Park tower could be used for improvements in that park, according to Councilmember Julie Trude.
Limited resident feedback
Rose Park neighbor Craig Blonigen objected to the structure next to the water tower.
“It would have a detrimental effect on mine as well as my neighbor’s property values. There would be no benefit to the neighborhood from such a structure,” he wrote in an email to the city.
No other residents raised objections to the projects, which is in stark contrast to incidents when the council considered tall cell phone tower structures in city parks.
Mayor Mike Gamache does not want to see cell phone towers constructed in any park and he brought up this point at the Nov. 5 council meeting with these two cell phone antenna proposals on the city’s radar.
The council in February 2008 amended its ordinance to allow cell phone towers in parks of any size. Prior to 2008, cell towers could only be in parks of at least 10 acres.
Since then, the council has approved towers in Prairie Knoll Park, Hidden Creek and Shadowbrook and by the Andover Station North Ball Fields, which is technically not a city park, according to Gamache.
None of these towers were built. T-Mobile in 2009 had proposed a cell tower at Prairie Knoll Park. Clearwire Wireless in 2010 had wanted new towers to provide 4G Internet service at the three other locations.
City Administrator Jim Dickinson said there are no new applications for cell towers or wireless Internet towers in any city park.
“Staff is not currently working on this, but if an application does come in for a tower in a park in the near future, the discussion will certainly be front and center again,” Dickinson said.
Gamache said these towers, which can reach up to 120 feet tall in residential districts, are not a good fit for parks. He would prefer to only see them in commercial or industrial areas. The 2008 ordinance allows towers to be up to 150 feet in those districts.
“What I’d like to do is to say we really don’t need that little bit of money we would have gotten from the cell towers and let us stop putting them in our parks,” Gamache said. “I look at the nice parks we have in our city and it just doesn’t fit. They’re not attractive.”
Councilmember Julie Trude said the issue is there are very few places to put the towers due to setback requirements. Trude said the council could revise the ordinance to address this, but there is a need for these towers.
“A lot of my neighbors and family have dropped their land lines, so now cell phones are really essential for people to stay in touch and emergency services,” Trude said. “I would prefer we not have them in the parks because of looks, but I also know we rely on cell phones.”
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org