2005-09-01 / News

Zoning to rule on 70-foot cell phone tower this month

By Sam Bari

Cingular Wireless says that the proposed cell tower will resemble the one in this mock up. Cingular Wireless says that the proposed cell tower will resemble the one in this mock up. Cingular Wireless made a presentation to the Jamestown Zoning Board of Review at its meeting this past May to apply for a special use permit to erect a wireless communications antenna tower at 179 Tashtassuc Rd. “that is 35 feet higher than an existing pole.”

The proposed structure is twice as tall as zoning regulations allow. The location on the property would also require a variance for setback allowances because the existing pole is less than 30 feet from the side property line.

At that meeting, the zoning board gave Cingular a continuance to explore alternatives to their request and come back the following month with their findings and answers to questions the board had asked. Cingular has requested and been given an additional three continuances to give them adequate time to prepare their presentation. They are currently slated to re-present their case at this month’s zoning board meeting.

According to Cingular’s Web site, the company has the largest digital voice and data network in the country, servicing 270 million customers and still growing. The company also claims to offer more bars displaying cell phone signal strength in more areas than any other cellular telephone company. They also recently merged with AT&T, which gives them additional access to facilities and technology that uses antennas.

Some Jamestown citizens are asking if Cingular has a singular agenda that is different from the needs of other cell phone companies.

One of the concerned citizens, Dennis Webster of Mount Hope Avenue, believes that the request is inappropriate on several levels. “Primarily, the application does not meet zoning requirements for setback or height. Additionally, the antenna would be obtrusive in the North Main Road area. Jamestown has made every effort to preserve this rural section of the island for agricultural and open space for all to enjoy in a non-industrial setting,” Webster said.

“Back in the mid-’90s, when the state built the John Eldred Highway (Route 138), we fought tooth and nail to maintain the aesthetics of the area. We demanded and were given a number of concessions, like no lighting, and exceptional landscaping. We convinced them to face the bridge across North Road with stone, and to construct the guardrails with wood instead of steel. After going to all this trouble to preserve the natural appearance and beauty of the area, I think it would set a dangerous precedent to allow something as obtrusive as a 70 feet tall antenna towering above the trees. If we allow one, more can follow. Other cellular companies have made requests to build towers and they have been refused, and none of them were in the North Main Road area. Why should this request be treated differently?” Webster added.

Dick Allphin, former zoning board chairman, concurred with Webster. “The structure can’t be screened or buffered, and it is not visually compatible with the overall look of the area,” he noted.

Allphin went on to say, “I am not convinced that they have explored all of the alternatives. From what I understand, the latest technology incorporates smaller antennas. And since they merged with AT&T, why can’t they share their antenna on the water tower? Also, have they considered putting it on the Navy tower at Bevertail? I think there are a number of questions that need to be answered considering alternatives before we make a decision to put up another tower anywhere,” he added.

“We need to install an antenna at the Tashtassuc Road facility to provide the best service possible for our customers,” said Marty Nee, public relations director for Cingular Wireless. “We have viewed all of the alternatives, and our technical experts believe that this is the best choice for the benefit of our customers,” he continued. “The antenna must be above the trees to be effective,” he added. “We are using the AT&T antenna atop the water tower. However, it isn’t effective enough to give our customers the service they deserve,” he noted.

When asked about how many people would benefit from the facility, he said, “We don’t disclose that information.”

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