A permit application was received Nov. 23, 2010, for the installation of a cellular communication tower on the property of John R. Eldredge. The project, Peerless Wireless Communications Facility, consists of an 80-foot monopole tower with antenna connected to a 12-by-30-foot shelter with supporting equipment inside a fenced and landscaped lease area approximately 70-by-155 feet. The site would be accessible to Stuart Avenue via a gravel access drive.
The motion requires approval of a 60-foot variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals, and tower design approval from the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway Board and Historic Preservation Commission. The project then returns to the Planning Commission for final approval. Commissioners Larry Presswood, Stan Lawson, Tricia Haws, Maryl Elliott, Tim Henderson and Michael Laney voted for approval. Councilman David May and Planning Commissioner Dee Burris opposed approval. Yvonne Cannon was absent.
May said during discussion he would not vote for the cell tower unless the Board of Zoning Appeals approved the variance first.
“We are voting on a concept and we are not getting to see the design?” May asked. “Why are we voting when we don’t have a design? We’re talking about a design that would make the Greenway Board and Historic Preservation Commission happy.”
City Manager Janice Casteel said the Greenway Board refused to consider a design until the project was approved by the Planning Commission.
Laney said, “The concern here is, it feels like we’re giving a blank check to you guys and turning you loose.”
May also questioned the building that would house the equipment.
Real Estate Attorney Philip Head, of Nashville, who spoke on behalf of the project, said it would be disguised so the views from the neighboring greenway and residential neighborhood would not be heavily impacted. The equipment would be housed at the base of the tower which would have a nice brick facade.
“It wouldn’t be your typical cell tower with a chain-link fence around it and a prefabricated metal structure,” he said.
The issue finally won support after Community Development Director Greg Thomas recommended adding the third condition of approval, which was to return with a design after the other conditions are met. That was acceptable to everyone but May.
“Well, it’s a few blocks from my house and I’ve heard from the neighbors,” May said prior to the vote. After the vote, he said, “Let it be shown I voted no.”
Representatives of Verizon Wireless met with the Greenway Board on May 19, and the Historic Preservation Commission April 18. That board agreed to work with the applicants and the Historic Preservation Commission on a stealth design. The purpose of a stealth design is to mitigate visual impacts of the tower upon the nearby historic district, the adjacent greenway, and the adjacent residential neighborhood.
Verizon originally requested the additional cell tower in October 2010 saying it was needed to keep up with increased residential demand for cellular transmission of data and voice communications. The Stuart Avenue location was chosen because cellular technology is still line of sight. The Cleveland City Council rejected the request.
Property owner John Eldredge defended his right to locate a tower on the property in a Dec. 5 letter to the Cleveland Daily Banner.
According to Greg Thomas, the only questions were the dimensions of the property and the proximity to the residential property. A cell tower is allowed in Commercial Highway districts under current zoning regulations. The structures 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 required distance for the 80-foot tower is 240 feet. However, because of topographical issues, the proposed site cannot meet that requirement. That is the reason for the 60-foot variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals.
He also pointed out that the Federal Communications Commission could approve the cell tower location and the city would lose its authority over the matter.
The cell tower has been on and off Planning Commission agendas until Tuesday.
On other agenda items, the Planning Commission:
- Approved a request by D & S Custom Homes for preliminary plat approval of Woodlawn Avenue Townhomes, a townhome subdivision of .31 acres on Woodlawn Avenue N.W. The property is zoned R2. Staff remarks indicated concern the proposed development slopes directly toward the residence on the adjacent property to the south. By replacing the existing ground cover with impervious surface, storm water runoff from the property would increase. It is extremely important that the owner and contractor correspond with the adjacent property owner about runoff. It is required that the contractor grades the property and directs storm water runoff away from the existing resident.
- Approved a request by Tim Korchak to rezone approximately 1.2 acres at 1009 South Lee Highway from High Density Residential R2 to Commercial Highway. The property has a history of being used for a commercial purposes, but the new owner would like to open a car lot at this location. This would be a change of use and could not be considered. The property also fronts onto Parker Avenue but no improved access is located on that street. A thick wall of vegetation separates this property from the residential neighborhood. The best use of this property in its current condition is for commercial development as it has been for the previous owners. Staff recommended rezoning the rest of this property from R2 to CH.
- A request by Brian and Amy Shoemaker to rezone approximately 37 acres at 1120 Valley Head Rd N.W. from R2 to CH was removed from the agenda at their request.
- An amendment to the zoning regulations to add a definition for the word “Dormitory” to the UC University Campus zoning district was removed from the agenda by Attorney Travis Henry on behalf of Lee University. The school is proposing a dormitory at 17th Street and Maple Street.