Lakeville cell tower gets poor reception from residents

  • Article by: ERIN ADLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 22, 2014 - 2:00 PM

The proposal to build a 150-foot Verizon cellphone tower has Lakeville residents frustrated, and the mayor agrees with their concerns.

A proposal to build a 150-foot cellphone tower is getting some static from Lakeville residents who live near the site — and even the mayor has come out against the idea.

Concerns were first expressed about the construction of a new Verizon Wireless tower, to be surrounded by chain-link fencing with barbed wire on top, at a neighborhood meeting organized by Verizon in late February, resident Jesse Nergard said.

About 30 to 40 residents attended that meeting and have since organized a Facebook page and a petition against the tower, Nergard said.

“I think the main objection is about just being thoughtful with this type of infrastructure and the options,” said Nergard, who lives 200 feet from the site.

The basic concerns are the tower’s aesthetics and their effect on property values. “Same as if you paint your house hot pink or something like that — is it compatible with its surroundings? Our position is certainly that it’s not,” Nergard said.

Nergard also spoke at the March 3 City Council meeting, citing blight, declining property values and possible health effects as reasons the tower shouldn’t be built on the city-owned, triangular lot at the corner of Dodd Boulevard and Flagstaff Avenue, Mayor Matt Little said.

At the meeting, Little agreed with Nergard’s concerns. “In terms of residents’ concerns versus Verizon’s needs to expand and the community as a whole, I don’t think the revenue outweighs the issues,” he said. “I don’t think it is fair to throw up a 150-foot tower in a residential neighborhood,” Little said. A nonresidential site should be found, he said.

No other council members have stated a position, however, and the proposal hasn’t been formally discussed at a council meeting or by the Planning Commission, he said.

Verizon approached the city and they began discussing potential locations about a year ago. Verizon has since filed a permit application to build the structure, Little said.

The process is stalled as Verizon does more site research and attempts to answer questions raised at the community meeting, said Lakeville’s associate city planner Frank Dempsey.

Earlier in the process, Verizon had identified other possible Lakeville sites, Dempsey said.

A Verizon representative says there’s a need to expand coverage in Lakeville, as more people want to use wireless devices wherever they are. The site was chosen in conjunction with the city, said Karen Smith, a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman. “Our process is that we try to stay ahead of the projected demands to our network,” Smith said

The city would own the tower and lease the land to Verizon, making about $30,000 per year from the deal, Dempsey said.

There are already seven wireless cellphone towers in Lakeville. Five are on land zoned public or open space, just as the proposed site is zoned, Dempsey said.

Towers can be shorter than 150 feet if they serve only one provider, but a city ordinance requires that each tower accommodate at least one other carrier to reduce the number of towers needed, he said.

Nergard says that none of the residents he’s spoken with says they need better wireless coverage.

But David Scott, who lives seven blocks away and runs a digital marketing business in his home, said he would welcome the tower and considers residents’ concerns “kind of silly.” He doesn’t think it will affect property values and in fact said he would look for “where I can get the best broadband access” when buying a house. The grassy lot is “just a blight right now” anyway, he said.

Another issue raised at the neighborhood meeting was whether the tower might fall down. According to Nergard, Verizon responded that it is “designed to collapse on itself but could not guarantee that it would fall as designed,” he said.

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