Hampton cell tower request advances, other sites urged


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Originally Posted Online: Aug. 07, 2014, 10:31 pm
Last Updated: Aug. 08, 2014, 10:01 am
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By Dennis Moran, correspondent@qconline.com

HAMPTON — A zoning request for a cellular transmission tower in the village will proceed, but the mayor and the zoning board of appeals want Verizon Wireless to consider a different location.

After a two-hour, often acrimonious, hearing Thursday night, the zoning board voted 3-2 to recommend a "use in review" permit for a 150-foot tower proposed for the property of Shannon's Bar and Grill near Illinois 84.

The zoning board then unanimously asked that the Hampton Village Board "work with Verizon on a more acceptable location" for the tower. That vote was met with applause from most of the approximately 50 residents in attendance.

Speaking during the hearing, Mayor Kevin Irby said Verizon officials did not contact the village until it began seeking the zoning request. The mayor also asked that Verizon work with the village on location options.

Many residents spoke during Thursday's hearing, sometimes responding angrily to each other.

Some defended the proposed tower and its location. Most expressed concerns, including aesthetics, the potential danger of microwave radiations to people and eagles, the possibilities of the tower collapsing and the effectiveness of the proposed new coverage.

Some residents offered Photoshop representations of how the tower would mar views of the river for residents living on a bluff. Most addressed their questions and concerns to Shawna Johnson, a site acquisition consultant representing Verizon and SBA Communication, the company that intends to build and own the tower it would lease to Verizon.

Ms. Johnson said Verizon, in seeking to improve and upgrade its coverage, identifies optimal locations for new towers, given constraints such as zoning.

In Hampton, sites west of Illinois 84 are in a designated flood plain, which poses more costs and risks for damage, she said. East of Illinois 84 are residential areas, she said, which the company seeks to avoid.

The commercial strip along Illinois 84 yielded the selected site, which offers the needed accessibility for construction.

The proposed tower's antennae would radiate outward from its perch 150 feet above ground level. Many residents on the 100-foot bluff are concerned that would put them in harm's way.

"I think the issue is the unique contour of the bluff," said Joe Wesselman, a bluff resident who described himself as an environmental engineer. "Have you modeled this impact area? You're right up against the bluff."

Ms. Johnson said the area hasn't been formally "modeled" and environmental reviews would take place after approval. However, she said the bluff area is more than 150 feet from the proposed antennae, a safe distance according to federal regulations. From that distance, she said, "a microwave in your house has more wattage than this tower."

"The concern is just not real," she said. "Study after study" has confirmed it was a safe distance, she said, noting cell towers are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.

Ms. Johnson also provided images of how the area would look with the tower.

"I don't believe it will have the degree of visual intrusion as initially feared," she said. "It will be visible. ... A lot of times they do appear more obtrusive when first built. In time they blend in."

Some residents questioned maps of the enhanced coverage area projected for the tower. Mayor Irby said the tower apparently would radiate outward from Hampton as far as Bettendorf.

Ms. Johnson said Verizon and SBA would not "spend hundreds of thousands of dollars if it's not needed."

"This will increase existing coverage and provide coverage where it didn't exist before," she said.

While many people did not appear satisfied with her assurances, others supported the tower. Tammy Burgess, the manager of Shannon's Bar and Grill, said she supports the project because it would benefit people living below the bluff and her patrons.

"Yesterday I couldn't even make a call," she said.

She also replied angrily when someone suggested she stands to gain financially from the tower, noting she does not own the desired site.

"There is nobody's money in my pocket," she said. "I'm not making a dime from this."



















 




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