GenCom presented two cell tower requests last night at the Board of Zoning Appeals hearing. The first was a request for a special use at a St. Joe Road location, which was deferred until February. Ours in West Central followed the first request. A number of us had come prepared to register our objections to the tower proposal, but we were surprised when GenCom initially requested a deferral of the issue until the February meeting.
The GenCom representative told the Board that because they had received a number of objections from West Central residents and others, they wished to try to work out an alternative proposal which would possibly garner neighborhood support. However, the Board was not willing to defer the proposal. The Board agreed that the request to defer would simply delay the same issue for a month. The Board instructed GenCom either to go forward with its current proposal and let the chips “fall where they may” or to withdraw the request and file a different one at a later date.
As I sat in the second row behind the GenCom and Centennial representatives, I was unsure how they would respond. Would they really withdraw the application after the time and effort involved to go forward? Or did they want to take the chance and go forward and receive a denial? Although a number of us were ready to speak against the request, if the request were withdrawn, obviously it would put us in a better position.
I watched as the GenCom representative looked back to get guidance from the Centennial representative. With a slight nod of the Centennial rep’s head indicating withdrawal, the GenCom issue was over, at least for last night. GenCom withdrew its request, and we all breathed a sign of relief.
The issue is not dead. GenCom can still file its request, but any new request must be “significantly different” than the current one. Cities and towns are becoming much more proactive in this new age of telecommunications technology and the methods needed to sustain it. Even though the first request, the St. Joe tower application, was deferred until February, prior to making that decision, the Board posed numerous questions to the GenCom representative.
While many see the rush to newer and better forms of technology to speed up our lives as absolutely necessary, others see the need to be cautious and ensure that the technology does, indeed, fit into our lives in more ways than just convenience. I sensed from both the St. Joe and the West Central situations that the trend may be toward making these companies truly address the public’s future concerns about their actions rather than simply rubber-stamp their requests because the company raises the alarm that they must have these towers to keep pace with the growth in new cell phone usage.
The bottom line is that there has to be a balance between any technology and the concerns of society. So, for now, the issue is tabled for the 1427 Broadway site. But, should the issue arise again, we will be ready to go back. We have a West Central Plan, and we have the Harrison Square sub-plan, both focusing on the historic nature of our neighborhood. If GenCom truly wants to be a “good neighbor” it will come up with an alternative that will satisfy not only the Plans but also the concerns of us, as West Central residents.