Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

March 27, 2014

Cell towers raise aesthetic concerns

TAHLEQUAH — A prospect of more cell phone towers looming in the Tahlequah sky has some area residents worried about their appearance.

During its March 20 meeting, the Tahlequah Zoning and Planning Board voted to issue special use permits to Branch Communication LLC to construct a pair of new cell towers. A 165-foot tower would be placed near the Tahlequah Public Schools Bus Barn, and a 170-foot tower would be built on property owned by Green Country Funeral Home. The permits must be approved by the city council.

Tahlequah resident Donna Eastham has expressed concern about the aesthetic impact of cell towers near the Cornerstone and First Baptist churches.

“Were it something smaller, that would be one thing,” Eastham said. “When it stands 170 feet tall, then it becomes an issue for neighbors and the community.”

The proposed tower near FBC would be erected near the intersection of the Bertha Parker Bypass and East Boone Street. The church and funeral home are on adjacent properties.

“There is a gorgeous white steeple at the First Baptist Church that can be seen from many locations,” Eastham said. “You don’t need to drive to the church to see it. A cell tower would affect that view.”

Eastham and her sisters also own adjacent properties, and she worries about the towers’ affect on property values.

“It isn’t just a little change,” she said. “I know AT&T sent letters to a few people at the church, but a Baptist church is owned by all members of its congregation, and not everyone at the church is aware of the situation. They have a voice as well. I believe that if you are a Tahlequah resident and you drive by the church on that bypass, you have a right to know that it is going to change. They shouldn’t drive by and wonder, ‘When did that go in?’”

The purpose of the additional towers is to accommodate the cellular traffic around the hospitals, and at Tahlequah Public Schools and Northeastern State University.

Craig Cromley, area manager of external affairs for AT&T Oklahoma, said Tahlequah can use an enhancement of its cellular coverage.

“Data traffic with AT&T has grown 20,000 percent in the past five or six years,” Cromley said. “Wireless traffic is much higher in Tahlequah today than just a few years ago, and it has been some time since a cell tower has gone up in the community.”

Cromley said the greater capacity will be a boost to health care and public safety, and allow better network access.

“The permit requests passed the planning and zoning board and will go before the city council, and we have signed leases with the landowners,” he said.

“This is an investment in Tahlequah and part of our effort to build a better network for the future.”

Eastham said she is not opposed to service enhancement.

“I’m on AT&T service as we speak,” she said. “But they could put a tower east of town. I tell people that I like bacon, and I like cell phones and the Internet, but there are places for pig farms and cell towers, and this isn’t it.”

Eastham also said she has a personal reason for not wanting a cell tower to impact the view of the church.

“My parents bought that land and later gave it to the church,” she said. “So that is one reason I am passionate about this. I want to protect my parents’ legacy.”

srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com

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