​Council Debates Another Cell Tower Location

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 13 meeting, the Sewanee Community Council and residents debated yet another possible cell tower location in addition to the Lake Cheston site and other sites discussed at the Jan. 8 community forum (see “Response to Lake Cheston Cell Tower Site” on page 1).

Eric Hartman, director of risk management and University liaison for the cell tower project, said Verizon rejected locating a tower near the former landfill site, a solution largely favored at the Jan. 8 forum. Verizon objected to toxic refuse in the landfill and close proximity to the airport, which limited tower height and successful propagation.

Hartman reviewed the three site options approved by Verizon: the water tower field, 800 feet from residences, lit, three-sided 290-foot tower, possibly requiring a supplemental antennae on a building for adequate propagation; Lake Cheston, 600 feet from residences, lit, three-sided 240-foot tower, good propagation; football field, 280 feet from residences, 185-foot monopole eight feet in diameter, unlit since under 200 feet tall, best propagation.

Hartman said Verizon recently proposed a modification to the football field site. They suggested replacing one of the four football field lights with a monopole and mounting the field lights on that pole. The infrastructure could be partly concealed beneath the bleachers. Verizon favored replacing the light pole beyond the concession stand. The proximity to homes would decrease.

Community resident Leslie Richardson objected, saying the chain-link fencing, generator, and infrastructure would be disruptive to the area used for tailgate parties.

Her husband, Dale Richardson, said the University conveyed they would not pursue locating a tower at the football field site due to concerns expressed by the State Historic Preservation Office. “I feel disappointed and misinformed.”

The Richardsons hold the lease on property adjoining the original football field site. The modified plan moved the monopole further from their home.

Hartman acknowledged that he told Verizon, “I don’t think the community will go for this.”

Asked about Verizon using an antenna mounted on a building to transmit the signal, Hartman said there was no building tall enough. He added “a tower is Verizon’s strategy. Verizon wants to invest in a single tower solution. Vogue Tower is the only tower company we could get interested in the project.”

Asked about approaching other cell service providers, Hartman said, “We need Verizon’s connectivity. Verizon is the leading provider. Without them, there is no project.”

Vice-Chancellor John McCardell asked if anyone wanted to speak in favor of any of the three sites, no one responded.

Resident Mayur Malde said he preferred multiple-antennas on buildings, noting that for adequate propagation, “repeater antennas will be needed anyway.”

Resident Emily Puckette observed a lighted tower “would be a presence for a long time and disruptive to wildlife flight.”

Council representative Theresa Shackleford asked to see a sketch of the infrastructure layout at the new football field site. Hartman replied, “Verizon will only invest in layout design if they think this is the preferred site.”

Leslie Richardson said she thought Verizon was being “unreasonable.”

Hartman pointed out Verizon had reviewed 11 sites, “a lot for a small community.”

Council representative Phil White said, “Every day we delay we put lives of community members in danger. Some things are more important than aesthetics and tradition.”