Cell tower causes stir in Bucher Park


Matt Hudson Residents expressed concerns over a zoning change made March 18 by the Shoreview City Council that would allow for a taller cell phone tower in Bucher Park.

A zoning change approved March 18 by the Shoreview City Council allows for the installation of a 75-foot cell phone tower in Bucher Park.

The previous zoning for that type of structure only allowed for a 60-foot tower in the park. The new zoning, called TOD-2, allows for taller towers.

It would help fill in a coverage gap for the area, according to city council documents.

“The cell towers that are closest to this area are operating at capacity, and therefore they are experiencing some deficiencies in the network,” said city planner Kathleen Castle.

The towers could be similar to two 75-foot cell towers in Sitzer Park, which is zoned for that height.

Buell Consulting, on behalf of Verizon, claimed that a 60-foot tower wouldn’t clear nearby signal obstructions, and the taller tower would expand to meet a growing network capacity.

“With a taller tower, we can accommodate somebody else in there as well, like an AT&T,” said Rob Viera of Buell.

Neighborhood residents lined up to give public comment against the tower. Most decried the tower’s effect on the Bucher Park skyline, and wondered whether a 75-foot tower was justifiable enough over the allowable 60-foot version.

“There’s a time and a place for it,” said Chris Nguyen, who lives near the park’s northern edge. “And that time and place is not my backyard. It’s not in my park.”

Mayor Sandy Martin said that the city policies for cell towers were made in 2001, and at the time they decided to keep them in certain zones of public land. She said that measuring the visual impact of the tower is a subjective exercise, but city staff, planning commission members and the city council had all decided that a taller tower wouldn’t be significantly intrusive.

Within the guidelines that the city can accept or deny the zoning request, council members said there wasn’t a clear reason to deny.

“I have trouble with all of them in terms of a deal-breaker,” said council member Terry Quigley. “I can’t think of a good reason.”

Verizon still has some steps to take with Shoreview before a tower is built. That includes facility and ground lease agreements, which could determine the look and location of the tower.

Martin said that once built, the tower might not be as visible as residents think.

“I think that we’ve seen at Sitzer that there wasn’t really any detrimental impact of this,” she said.

 

—Matt Hudson

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