Oregon City Council last week approved a special use permit for Verizon Wireless to build a cell phone tower on city property behind the water treatment plant at 951 North Curtice Road.
The company had originally wanted to locate the tower on city owned property on Cedar Point Road, but its request for a setback variance by the Oregon Board of Zoning Appeals was denied this year.
Opponents of the previously proposed site said it was too close to a residential neighborhood. There were other issues, too. The owners of an existing television broadcasting tower on Cedar Point Road, approximately 1,200 feet from the previous site, was not interested in co-locating with Verizon. Another structure, about two miles from that site at Stadium Road and Route 2, could not be used because it is located outside the target area and is too close to an existing Verizon tower, which would have caused interference and impaired service.
The site is southwest of the water treatment plant behind a lagoon.
The zoning code states that towers should be at least half a mile away from each other, Jim Gilmore, commissioner of building and zoning, said at the Nov. 26 council meeting. The new 250 foot lattice tower with a lightening arrester at the top would fall short of that requirement.
A television broadcasting tower just west of the site is less than half a mile away, said Gilmore.
“It’s about 100 feet short of a half mile,” said Gilmore. “That’s the only negative to this site.”
“The first site that was denied was much closer,” noted Councilman Jerry Peach.
“Apparently, there’s no possibility from interfering signals, one from the other,” said Peach.
“That’s right,” said Gilmore. “The first site was even closer. But there will not be any interference with the TV antenna.”
At an Oregon Planning Commission meeting last month, there was no opposition from residents in the area.
“There were a couple of residents who…said they had no problem with it if the location is where we are suggesting,” said Mayor Mike Seferian, who is a member of the commission. “So they went on to say only good things.”
“It turns out the plant can handle this location very well, and it’s better for our neighbors, who were unhappy when we had the planning commission and BZA hearings,” said Administrator Mike Beazley. “This is a better location for the city, it will meet the needs of the company, and ultimately, meet the needs of the northern part of Oregon, which needs better service at the end of the day. I think it’s a win for us as we go forward.”
“I am desperately needing the coverage for my own business and my own phone,” said Council President Tom Susor. He asked Public Service Director Paul Roman if the location behind the water treatment plant would interfere with any future plans to expand the facility.
Roman said it would not. The location “works well” on the south side, he said.
Robert Grant, attorney for Verizon, said it will be four to six months before the new tower goes up.
“We have a little bit of work yet to do. There are many layers of regulatory review we have to go through. I don’t think that’s going to take terribly long,” said Grant.
As far as improving coverage in the area, Grant showed maps where existing towers are located for optimal coverage.
“These towers work like a honey comb, or bee hive. They pass on a signal when you’re traveling through an area. There’s quite a bit more coverage we’ll get from this [tower] and provide handoff for sister towers near it so that if there’s any heavy usage, you will be less likely to get a dropped call. You’ll also get better `in-building’ coverage,” said Grant, when there are occasional problems with weak signals within a building, which usually prompts users to go outside to try and strengthen the signals.
“You’ll typically get a better signal in your homes and businesses and basements,” he said.
Councilman Sandy Bihn said she has had problems with dropped cell phone calls.
“Maumee Bay State Park, the Lake Erie Center, and other businesses in the area will really appreciate it,” she said. “I live in the area, and today I was talking with someone. During the conversation, we went about 15 minutes then it just went dead. And you never know when you can stay on it because it’s tenuous at best. If you go down Stadium Road, it just dies at a certain point. You cannot have a conversation. If I pull into the garage and I’m talking on the phone, it will go dead every time. It gets annoying. When you go to the Maumee Bay Park itself, the lodge and campgrounds, we get complaints all the time. The technology is there but not the service. I think it’s a great plan. Our community will benefit from it.”
She asked if the signal will extend over Lake Erie or over the bay.
“It will extend into the lake area, but if you’re out there pretty far, you’re not going to get any coverage,” said Grant.
He thanked city officials for helping the company find another site.
“The original location did have some opposition from neighbors. We would like to think that everyone in the community will be our customer, so the last thing we ever want to do is come into a community and bully ourselves into a location that makes neighbors unhappy,” said Grant. “We hope that the neighbors will like this location.”