The tentative gathering will be held at 11:30 a.m. upstairs in the Cleveland Municipal Building.
The group will also consider a proposal by property owner John Eldridge to lease a site he owns at 699 17th St. to Verizon Wireless for a 66-foot cell tower. Original plans had called for an 80-foot tower but Verizon has since altered its specifications.
Planning commissioners will also review a plat proposal at the called session.
The group continued its rewrite of the cell tower regulations at a session Wednesday that had been adjourned from Nov. 23. In a review of several minor changes explained by Community Development Director Greg Thomas, planning commissioners pointed to the need to also address the noise and aesthetic impact of generators located at cell tower sites.
The subject arose when Cleveland City Councilman David May Jr., a planning commission member, said he had observed a cell tower in Chattanooga on Lee Highway that utilized two large generators. He suggested the issue should be addressed in Cleveland’s revised cell tower ordinance.
Thomas confirmed the draft ordinance does not address the use of generators and that if planners want it included he would need to research the issue and make necessary additions in preparation for another planning commission meeting.
Eldridge, who addressed planning commissioners in their Nov. 23 meeting defending his rights as a property owner to lease the land for cell tower use, was also on hand Wednesday. He weighed in on the question of generators.
“The way I understand it from Verizon ... is the generators are only used in times of power failure to keep the signal going,” he said. “The generator is not used continuously.”
He pointed out power failures are irregular events and even then are generally brief, meaning that generators would operate only for short periods of time.
Eldridge also addressed the aesthetics of a cell tower and generators.
He reminded planning commissioners that Municipal Code already requires that the city’s urban forester be involved in cell tower generator placement in order to assure they are appropriately screened by vegetation as a buffer against noise and aesthetic issues.
Planning commission member Dr. Michael Laney asked Eldridge if he knows whether Verizon will be cooperative in ironing out aesthetics and noise issues pertaining to generator use at the 17th Street location.
“I’m sure they’ll be able to work with you in any way possible,” Eldridge said.
The property owner pointed out Verizon has already scaled back height requirements to 66 feet. He said the cell tower’s monopole is “not obtrusive,” and compared them to existing utility poles already used regularly by public utilities.
Tim Henderson, planning commission chairman who is employed by Cleveland Utilities, acknowledged CU owns power poles similar in size to that proposed by Verizon. He said power poles are not considered obtrusive because the public is accustomed to seeing them. Henderson said he hopes the revamped city ordinance will provide the kind of guidance and flexibility needed to accommodate future cell tower requests.
Eldridge’s original plans for the cell tower site were earlier discussed by Cleveland City Council members who opposed its location due to proximity to the downtown historic district and the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway. Council members were acting in response to complaints by several area residents who opposed the tower’s placement.
In a Nov. 23 meeting of the planning commission, Eldridge presented his case and pointed out that existing city ordinance allows him to place the tower there because the area was zoned commercial highway before he bought it in 1985.
The cell tower request led to planning commissioners launching a review and update of the existing municipal provisions governing cell towers. In the Municipal Code, it is billed as “Minimum Standards for Siting Cellular Communication Towers.”
Planning commissioners had adjourned their Nov. 23 meeting to Wednesday to allow time for Thomas to make additional revisions. In the meantime, Thomas and several planning commission members would participate in a “webinar” covering cell tower regulation and zoning rules.
The group discussed some of the webinar contents at Wednesday’s adjourned session. Planning commission member Maryl Elliott said she was particularly interested in the four primary reasons for denying a cell tower request as specified in the webinar — aesthetics, environmental (such as disruption to wetlands), height and impact on residential areas.
It was also pointed out the planning commission can require a carrier to provide an alternative site analysis.
Thomas informed the group of a “Shot Clock Rule” in which planning commissioners must render a decision on a cell tower request within 150 days if it is a new tower site and 90 days for additions to existing towers.
His information from the webinar pointed out some 225,000 cell towers existed nationwide in 2008 and about 12,000 are added each year. “Towers are added today to fill in gaps in coverage for Internet, data, pictures, etc.,” Thomas said. “Personal Communication Service (PCS) is the next major step in cell phone service and it will require antennae coverage that is perhaps different than typical cell towers.”
An additional 125,000 towers of some type will be needed nationally to meet current demands, he said.
“PCS is anticipated to require another 125,000 towers (nationally),” Thomas said. “The result is that there are five times more towers (now) than in 1996 with many more likely.”