Application for cell tower: Zoning code 'discriminates'

The city of Columbus' rules for where cellular towers can be placed are both antiquated and discriminatory, according to an application seeking a variance for a site on Indianola Avenue.

Kristopher M. Nickel of Hilliard-based Cbjm Development LLC, acting as the agent for the owner of the property, filed the application with the city's Board of Zoning Adjustment on May 12. The 100-foot cell tower for T-Mobile would be located at 3005 Indianola Ave., which is zoned for commercial uses and owned by August T. Simmons.

"The Columbus zoning code discriminates against the siting of tower sites on smaller commercially zoned properties by employing a 200 percent of tower height setback from residential districts," Nickel wrote in his capacity as agent for Simmons. "Larger commercial properties allow for the simple siting of new towers to meet service needs.

"However, the greatest service needs today are in high-density residential neighborhoods. The only way to meet this growing need is to locate towers where the need is. The code which regulates this placement is under control of the city of Columbus and is out of control of the property owner. Only a variance can mitigate the problem created by the code allowing service providers to meet the needs of residential areas."

Nickel also sought in the hardship section of the variance request to blunt opposition based on perceived damage to property values in the vicinity of cellphone towers.

"Over 20 years of new tower development has consistently shown that tower sites do not harm nearby property values, which is the most common concern," he wrote. "In addition, towers are designed to fold in upon themselves in the unlikely event of a catastrophic structural failure, limiting damage to the site upon which they are located."

"The people who are in favor of the proposal are excited to have better cellphone coverage and are hopeful that even if T-Mobile is not their provider, that other providers will add antennae to the tower so that more people will benefit from it," Dana Bagwell, chairman of the zoning and variance committee of the Clintonville Area Commission, wrote in an email. "Others have stated that this is a commercially zoned property and that the towers are a necessity for the way we are living our lives nowadays.

"The residents who have spoken in favor of the project are far outnumbered by the people voicing objections, however, and that will probably play a large part in the way the committee and the commission vote."

The committee Bagwell leads is expected to hear from both sides of the issue at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 1, at Clinton Heights Lutheran Church, 15 Clinton Heights Ave.

The full CAC would be scheduled to consider the request at its next regular meeting, set for 7 p.m. July 10 in the meeting room at the Whetstone branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 3909 N. High St.

Final authority on granting or denying the variance rests with the city's Board of Zoning Adjustment.

-- Kevin Parks