Cell Tower: Round 2

Please note: at the end of this post is a poll regarding cell phone use in the downtown core.  Registration is not needed to participate! 

In the March 9, 2008 Journal-Gazette, an article announces that the Board of Zoning Appeals(BZA) will hear a request for a variance from JB Towers, LLC. to build a 150 foot tower at 1701 Fairfield Avenue.  This would place the tower out of the direct line-of-sight of the GE Sign.  The location would be behind Bushey’s Windows, Doors & Sunrooms and owned by JB Towers LLC.  The BZA’s monthly meeting will be held March 27, 2008, at 6:00 pm in room 126 of the City County Building. Free parking is available after 6:00 p.m. in the City-County Parking Garage.

Bushey's Windows Doors and Sunrooms at 1701 Fairfield Avenue


At the end of aforementioned article:

Carolyn DeVoe, former president of the Southwest Area Partnership, said the project could still be improved. Antennas could be mounted on downtown high-rises or on two proposed 100-foot towers that would serve as architectural features for Headwaters Park. That would avoid the need for wireless carriers to dot downtown with towers, she said.

DeVoe said she would prefer to see the city find a comprehensive solution for cell tower placement instead of letting companies install them one by one.

While this sounds like a good idea, I do not think this should be a high priority for the City.  The City faces some hurdles over the next couple of years to cover the loss of property tax revenues due to Governor Daniel’s Indiana tax reform legislation.  City government is going to have to cut services and I don’t think adding the cost of a consultant, which we know would be required for a “comprehensive solution” like this plus the time requirements from an already stressed City-County government work staff.  I think the better solution is to allow the BZA to do their job.  I admit I was pretty impressed by the questions and hard-line of the BZA back in January (read this post).  This is one area where citizens can get involved and let the BZA know their feelings about proposals and variation requests.  In the case of the proposed GenComm Cell Tower along Broadway, the BZA listened and it became evident they weren’t going to allow it to be constructed there.

The Withdrawn Broadway Tower Proposal 

A search of Fort Wayne, using the FCC’s Antennae Structure Registration site returns a finding of 18 towers within a 3 kilometer radius of the abandoned site along Broadway pursued earlier in the year by GenComm.

18 Cell Towers mapped within 3.2 Kilometer distance of the recently proposed Broadway site, now defunct

A few notes about the above map and results:

  1. To perform this search for yourself, follow this link.  Then enter the following strings:  
              Latitude: 41 04 18.6 N
              Longitude: 85 08 53.8 W
              Kilometers: 3
  2. The map includes the tower above the Verizon building at 303 East Berry Street removed several years ago.
  3. I think the Channel 15 and 21 towers are a bit more than 3 kilometers from GE.
  4. Outside of the 3 aforementioned towers, only 1 tower is over 100 feet tall, the MTI Management LTD tower listed as residing at 620 Hayden Street.  (I believe this might be a communications tower for the City.)

This last observation is important.  How are we currently getting good cell phone reception downtown without any towers over 100 feet tall?  On top of my building, which is 11 stories tall, is located communication equipment.  (I know this because I can see it and if I spend too much time up there, I glow in the dark when I come back downstairs.  Just kidding.  They do have signs posted that warn you of a large amount of radio frequency signals.)  You look at almost any tall building downtown and it has some sort of communications gear at the top of it.  I have never had a problem getting a signal downtown.  So why the need for another tower close to downtown?  Especially one over 100 feet tall? 

According to a document titled, “Engineering Support for a new tower near downtown Fort Wayne” filed with the GenComm application, the reason for the tower is :

…to improve in-building coverage/quality near the western edge of downtown Fort Wayne . . .  This new signal is needed to provide in-building service to the large commercial buildings [G.E.?] that are in the area.  This includes the commercial area up and down Broadway and new development downtown . . . includes the finished Allen County Public Library and the Grand Wayne Center . . . future development of the Harrison Square project will also receive additional signal from this tower.  It has been determined that this new cell will also handle new development in the area.

There is also a map included in the BZA file that shows there is existing Centennial coverage coming from the top of the Anthony Wayne Building at the Northeast corner of the Berry and Clinton Street intersection.  I cannot reproduce the map here because it is Centennial Wireless proprietary information and my copy wouldn’t be clear anyway.  The existing AWB facility adequately covers the above mentioned facilities and in fact, most of the heart of downtown.   So it appears that Centennial wanted to be first to cash in on the downtown rush.  While the BZA might approve 1 tower of this height in the area it is highly doubtful they would have approved more.  So whoever erected the first tower would have what could be considered a monopoly on that corner of the market.

The New Fairfield Tower Proposal 

This new tower behind Bushey’s will be 150′ tall and have 5 collates at ten foot intervals starting at 110′.  The first tenant would probably be installed at the 150′ level.  The south end of the building forms an “L” shape.  The base of the tower will be built inside the L and fenced in with room for equipment storage and facilities – see the second drawing for details.

Bushey's Cell Proposed Tower Site: Aerial Veiw


Site drawing

This means that in addition to the height variance, a set back variance is also requested because the set back needs to be 75% of the tower’s height or 112.5′.  The property is not wide enough to accommodate the tower’s being set back from both side property lines. 

Question 7 on the application asks:

[Contingent use and special use] – How the nature, location, size, & site layout of the proposed use will be compatible with the immediate area?

Answer: We have located the tower inside a fence yard on land zoned industrial.  We have hidden the base of the tower by an existing building.  The view at street level should not be altered.

This is located in the Poplar Hoagland Masterson Neighborhood Association which is inactive.  Also surrounding the downtown core, but inactive are the Chapel Oaks, Michigan Avenue and Maumee Terrace Neighborhood Associations.

It will be interesting to see how the BZA responds to this request and if other requests made for more towers downtown are approved.



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