John Eldridge said the property he owns at 699 17th St. was zoned commercial highway before he bought it in 1985.
“I am allowed to place a cell phone tower on my property under the city ordinance,” he said.
Cell towers will be the topic of discussion when the Cleveland Municipal Planning Commission reconvenes at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in the Municipal Building to discuss revisions to the “Minimum Standards for Siting Cellular Communication Towers“ as defined in municipal code.
The Nov. 23 meeting was adjourned until more information was gathered.
Commissioners Thursday attended a web-based seminar, “Current Issues in Cell Tower Regulation and Zoning Rules,” presented by attorneys Jonathan Kramer and John W. Pestle.
The seminar focused on technology issues such as transmission, radio-frequency safety, equipment and legal issues connected with cell-site regulation and zoning by governments.
The planning commission was asked to consider revising municipal code after members of the Cleveland City Council voted against construction of an 80-foot cell tower near the historical district.
Since the property is zoned commercial highway, the monopod structure is authorized as spacing requirements are met. Towers are prohibited in residential areas and must not be closer to those zoning district than 200 feet or 300 percent of the tower height.
The City Council’s position was based on phone calls they received from people objecting to the structures. Eldridge said the complainers consist of a very small group of people.
Revising the ordinance would strip him of his property rights “solely on behalf of this small group of people. I believe these people are not aware that the position they’ve so strongly taken against this project, is misguided when certain factors are examined.”
Councilman Richard Banks originally raised the issue at the Oct. 25 Council meeting saying the cell tower would be contrary to the best interest of the residents in and around this 17th Street area between the Greenway and Historic Cleveland Neighborhood District.
Also, the height of the pole would detract from the historic community immediately adjacent Eldridge’s property. Members of the Cleveland City Council were unanimous in their opposition though it would have been in a commercial zoning district.
Eldridge said his property is not immediately adjacent to the historic district or the Greenway, but 2 1⁄2 blocks from Highland Avenue, the westernmost boundary of the district.
“A businessman whose office is located on the easternmost boundary of the historic district, at the corner of Church and 6th Streets, can actually leave his front door, walk about 60 feet north to the intersection of 7th and Church Streets and look east to see a 189-foot cell tower located at 770 Railroad St., just four blocks from his office.
“If he walks a mere 25 feet south from his front door, he can again observe this same cell tower, plus another 175-foot tower about 1 1⁄2-miles away at 195 High St. These towers are easily visible from many vantage points, north to south, along Church Street. Also, partially visible from his office location, is a 150-foot tower on top of the AT&T building at 549 Broad St. near 7th Street.
“Apparently, these towers don't seem to effect him (the businessman) or harm the historic district — and they are much taller and more visible than an 80-foot tower 2 1/2 blocks outside of the District.”
Eldridge said the same person also makes the argument that a cell tower at 17th and Keith Street would be too close to the flight path of medical helicopters.
“If that were true, then we couldn't have any medical helicopters flying into Cleveland. There are many other towers of different kinds located in the city, that are much, much taller than the one proposed on my property,” he said.
“Furthermore, all towers have flashing red lights atop them, to warn planes and helicopters from coming too near. These helicopters have a predetermined flight approach path that they use when landing at hospitals and obstacles, such as cell towers or other tall fixtures are clearly known by these pilots and are configured into their flight plans.”
Attorney Matt Harris of Nashville, who represents the communications company, explained during the Oct. 25 Council meeting that Verizon Wireless settled on Eldridge’s property because it was the best location for the tower needed to service residential areas on either side of Keith Street. It is a capacity site located within three existing Verizon Wireless cell towers on Varnell Road, Overlook Drive and Railroad Street.
The location is site specific and the area where the tower can be located is limited. If the towers are located too close to each other they duplicate coverage and are unproductive.
Consumer demand has outstripped network capacity to transmit data since 1-in-4 homes no longer have landlines and rely exclusively on cell phones. The company upgraded the three existing locations. The towers have reached their maximum capacity to service the transmission needs now and in the future. The proposed tower would accommodate Verizon and two additional carriers if needed.
Harris told the Council the world has changed since the company’s last tower was erected in August 2005 and “expectations are very, very different now. The amount of data transmitted by consumers has increased on an industry-wide average of 300 percent annually. People rely on cell phones to update Facebook, send pictures, e-mail and “any sort of data you can imagine puts excessive demand on the antennas that go on these cell phone towers.”
It was mentioned there was talk of putting utilities underground in the historic area.
Eldridge said according to Dennis Daniels at Cleveland Utilities, “There are absolutely no plans to place these utilities underground. He (Daniels) said it would be cost prohibitive.”
Eldridge said no one walking the Greenway ever looks up at the utility poles.
“They either look ahead or down or back and forth while conversing with their walking partner. I've observed and videoed these walkers for three weeks and I have yet to see even one person look up at any of these power poles.”