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Application denied


The OKC Planning Commission told AT&T that cellphone towers and neighborhoods do not mix.

Clifton Adcock September 14th, 2011

Three requests to place cellphone towers near residential areas were rejected by the Oklahoma City Planning Commission at its Sept. 8 meeting, and the requests inspired commissioners to ask city staff to look into the possibility of putting a moratorium on new towers in the city.

The planned towers, which would have been for the AT&T network and ranged in height from 75 to 125 feet, were met with protests from nearby residents, and the proposals faced harsh criticism from the commissioners.

The applications were for an 80-foot tower on top of the Mayfair Center building at 3212 N.W. 48th St., a 75-foot tower atop a fitness center at 15504 Jefferson’s Garden Court and an 80-foot tower on a glass company building at 855 N.W. Fifth St. A fourth application by AT&T Mobility at 2835 S.W. 43rd St. was deferred until the Sept. 22 meeting.

right Lee Peoples questioned locating a tower at N.W. Fifth Street.

Mark Kesner, the AT&T Mobility representative at the meeting, said the towers would be used to improve AT&T service coverage in the areas, and that during peak times, the coverage area often shrinks because of high usage, causing slow downloads and dropped calls.

Data and voice system traffic has increased by about 3,000 percent in the last 18 months, Kesner said, and the three sites before the planning commission were just a handful of several new towers AT&T was installing. Due to the way the three sites were zoned, planning commission approval was required before work began.

Those protesting the plans offered a wide range of concerns, including possible health effects, aesthetics and property values.

View where the OKC Fire Tower currently stands and where AT&T's proposed tower ought to go.

Lee Peoples, who is building a house about two blocks north of the N.W. Fifth Street location, questioned the need for a tower there.

Claiming he has very strong service in that area, he said the tower would be out of character with the surrounding neighborhood, violates height rules and would lower property values.

“The rules were in force when we bought our land and we followed the rules,” Peoples said. “AT&T is here today not to follow the rules.”

During exchanges with Kesner (pictured, right), commission members criticized the plan to install towers near neighborhoods.

Commissioner Bob Bright, Ward 6, said placing a tower in the middle of a neighborhood would “ruin” it.

“You’re putting 80-foot, 125feet towers all over this entire city just to compete, to the detriment of the appearance of this city, Mayfair neighborhood, and for what reason? It’s only money,” Bright said. “Put the towers in a place that’s appropriate and not smack-dab in the middle of a neighborhood.”

Bright said service has already been established, and that the new towers were just to increase coverage at the expense of neighborhoods.

“Increasing your coverage so you can get more customers, is not, in my opinion, in any way, shape or form, any reason to change what we worked on to make this area what it should be,” Bright said.

Put the towers in a place that’s appropriate and not smack-dab in the middle of a neighborhood.
—Bob Bright


Ward 8 Commissioner Nick Gales said the cellphone companies have not lived up to their agreement that, once their network was established, future cellphone towers would be smaller and less intrusive.

“We amended our ordinance a number of years ago through lengthy negotiation with the industry,” Gales said. “I believe it is time to revisit that, and I would suggest until we can revisit it, we adopt a moratorium on future cell towers.”

A moratorium is not being considered, said Planning Director Russell Claus, but city staff and the commission will review the ordinances later in September, and the city will continue to process cellphone tower applications in the interim.

 
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