Efforts to overturn ‘disguised’ cell tower design fail by single vote | Local News


Opponents say fight should continue in court

There was a brief moment of elation Tuesday for critics of a controversial cellphone tower on the city’s east side as the Washington Board of Adjustment voted 3-2 that the city erred in issuing a building permit for the cellphone tower because she didn’t. meet code requirements for a disguised tower.

That joy was cut short by an announcement from Washington City Attorney Mark Piontek, who said four votes were needed to overturn the city’s decision to issue the building permit for the cell tower at 602 Alberta Lane.

“I didn’t know it needed four votes,” said Amy Howell, who was part of a group of residents seeking to convince the Council of Adjustment that the 155-foot-tall tower, which is built to look like a tree, failed to meet the specific requirements of a disguised cellphone tower. Had the group prevailed, the Board of Adjustment could have ordered the company to submit a new tower design.

Howell said she and other neighbors plan to appeal the council’s decision to Franklin County Circuit Court.

“It’s not over,” Howell said after the meeting. At the heart of the neighbors’ argument, the tower does not blend into the “natural world” as dictated by city codes, passed in 2017.

“It sticks out like a sore thumb,” said Ron Linnenbrink, who was one of many to speak out against the tower’s design. No one spoke in favor of the design, although two members representing Tower Co., the company building the cell phone tower, were present at the meeting.

Representatives said they could “theoretically” add more branches to the “tree,” but couldn’t due to weight capacity concerns.

Linnenbrink’s wife, Katie, echoed her husband’s sentiments.

“I realize cell towers are necessary for communication, but it’s unsightly,” said Katie Linnenbrink. “We would like something better. We deserve something better than this.

According to city code, the construction company could have built a cell phone tower that looked like a clock tower, an observation tower, a water tower, an artificial tree or a limited number of other appearances. There is another disguised cell tower in Washington, located at Cecilia Drive, which is disguised as a flagpole.

“It’s a shame. It looks like a big toilet bowl brush and it’s embarrassing,” Lisa Holdmeier said. She and other neighbors urged the Board of Adjustment to ask the Washington City Council to review its municipal codes to be more restrictive on cell tower spawns.

“We realize it may be too late to do anything about this tower, but we don’t want it to happen to anyone else. We don’t want this to become the landscape of Washington,” Amy Howell said.

Their message apparently fell on receptive ears, as council voted 5-0 to send the codes back to city council for review.

“This code is as vague as it gets,” said Jason Pellin, who, along with Susan Harms, voted to have the cell tower meet the code’s current requirements. Board of Adjustment members Kevin Kriete, Gwen Mauntel and Lloyd Miesner voted to cancel the building permit.

“I don’t deny that he’s in disguise,” Mauntel said. “It’s just not a very good disguise.”

She referenced city code 400.320, which stated that the tower’s presence must be “camouflaged or concealed as an architectural or natural feature.”

“Although it could be interpreted differently, I think it’s obvious that it’s not a natural characteristic. It’s not hidden,” Mauntel said. “Do we have better options for a disguise other than This one? He’s clearly wearing a disguise, but it’s a disguise that makes him stand out instead of hiding.

According to city leaders, including city administrator Darren Lamb, the city’s cell tower ordinances use language similar to that found in codes in other cities. He said any revisions to city codes could be done, but could take between three and six months because the proposed changes would require public hearings and multiple readings at meetings of the Planning and Zoning Commission and council. municipal.

“We’ll talk internally about what we can do to resolve any ambiguities in the city code,” Lamb said. He said any changes to city codes will still have to comply with state laws.

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