The Canal Winchester Times

Madison Township

Trustees give mixed reviews to cell tower proposal

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A proposal to place a 150-foot Verizon cellular tower on the grounds of Asbury Elementary School garnered mixed reviews from Madison Township officials, who said the school district needs to schedule a public forum to share information with residents.

Groveport Madison schools Superintendent Bruce Hoover and Treasurer Tony Swartz provided information about the plan at the trustees' Aug. 20 meeting but said district officials had not decided yet whether to proceed with it.

The tower would be placed at the rear of the elementary school property, which is located at 5127 Harbor Blvd. in the Blacklick Estates neighborhood.

"Our position is clear: The financial gain is not enough to make a difference to the district's finances, so we look at it as a potential community service option," Hoover said. "Our relationship with the residents is more important to us than the financial gain in this deal."

Swartz said the school property is the only one designated by Verizon Wireless for the coverage area that has the necessary room for a 150-foot setback from residential buildings.

However, the school property is still zoned agricultural and would have to be changed to commercial industrial in order to erect a cellular tower on the site.

Based on current information about cellular tower lease agreements, Swartz said the district would likely negotiate for a 20- to 30-year term for between $800 and $3,000 a month in revenue.

"If the board agrees to negotiate, it would be conditional on zoning approval," he said.

That means Verizon will have to present its case to the Franklin County Board of Zoning Appeals. Swartz said the process would include a public hearing, with notification to "all adjoined and adjacent landowners."

Trustee Gary McDonald, who lives near the school, said he would be disappointed if the cellular project moves forward.

"Over the last two to three years, Madison Township has taken an interest in working hard to develop the community as one worth noticing, with land improvements and investments in housing," McDonald said. "We've had a lot of blighted properties we've addressed, demolishing 14-plus homes to improve the value of other properties; and as a result, our residents have taken pride and done more improvements themselves. So my concern is, as a resident and trustee, that I believe this tower would decrease property values."

He also noted the township has had trouble keeping people from illegally climbing on the roof of the school, so the tower could be another dangerous temptation.

McDonald and Township Administrator Susan Brobst suggested the next step for the school board should be to host a public forum at Asbury Elementary about the cell tower proposal.

Trustee Victor Paini pointed out the township doesn't have an official say in the matter, which is why the district needs to provide information directly to residents.

"We haven't seen all the data about the cell dead spots, or how putting the thing there is necessary, or what the resident feedback is," Paini said. "I think letting the process continue is good, and there's always going to be some not-in-my-backyard feelings, so I think there could be a public service need, but I haven't seen the data to support that yet."

Brobst reiterated the need to hold a public forum at Asbury, to provide "the most accurate information out there."

Swartz said he would take the officials' comments back to the school board, and they would take them into consideration as they decide how to proceed.

He said there is no set timeline for the project, so the district won't "rush into anything."

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