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Neighborhood dials up fight against cell tower plans

Tower set for 3000 block of Indianola Ave. incenses residents

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A proposed cellphone tower has become a lightning rod for opposition among people who live or own businesses in the vicinity of 3005 Indianola Ave.

Although the property, owned by August T. Simmons, is zoned commercial, it sits in a mostly residential area, and erecting a 100-foot T-Mobile cellular tower requires a setback variance. 

The members of the Clintonville Area Commission's zoning and variance committee will take up the request at their next meeting, set for Tuesday, July 1, at Clinton Heights Lutheran Church, 15 Clinton Heights Ave. The session begins at 7:30 p.m., and committee Chairwoman Dana Bagwell said she expects it will be a long one.

"As with most projects, there is likely not going to be a 100 percent agreement on this, but it's important to allow the public to have a say, express opinions and ask questions," she wrote in an email. "I would like to get a lot of the issues ironed out before our official meeting ... but I expect there will still be a large number of people in attendance, and they will all certainly be given an opportunity to speak."

Bagwell and CAC District 3 representative Libby Wetherholt, in whose area the cell tower would be located, convened a meeting last week for residents of the Midgard-Woodbine neighborhood and a representative of the owner seeking the variance. Wetherholt said she did not permit Kristopher M. Nickel of Hilliard-based Cbjm Development LLC to answer questions directed at him by opponents of the proposal.

"Dana and I both wanted to have this meeting because, often at a zoning and variance or any other formal meeting, there are a lot of questions that don't get answered, so we wanted to give the residents the facts about where it would be built and how it would be built and what it would look like," Wetherholt said.

No minds were changed at the gathering, she added.

"The representative did not expect there to be any," Wetherholt said.

Reached by phone, Nickel was asked how he felt the meeting went.

"I wouldn't want to comment on that," he said.

Nickel also had no comment on opposition to the proposed location.

He did say that he and his client intend to go ahead with the variance application.

"This is an outrage to the neighborhood, aesthetically and financially, and makes no sense," Midgard-Woodbine resident Kay Robinson wrote in an email.

She said she and her neighbors plan to turn out in force for the July 1 zoning and variance meeting.

"Not a big fan, actually," said Eric Brembeck, owner of Studio 35 Cinema and Drafthouse, 3055 Indianola Ave. "It's not the right place. It's ridiculous. These things are awful-looking.

"We're trying to grow that area and be more commercial, and for that monstrosity to be sticking up in the sky would be wrong."

"It will basically split that little corridor, and that's like busting the balloon just as the business owners are starting to blow it up," said Jeff Frontz, a south Clintonville resident and self-described environmentalist.

"We, as a cohesive group, have discussed this matter, and are strongly opposed to this project," states a letter composed for submission to the CAC on behalf of people living near 3005 Indianola Ave. "We absolutely do not want this cellphone tower erected in our area.

"Corporations like T-Mobile have no right to interfere in our quality of life by invading our space with an ugly monstrosity of a cell tower. This is unacceptable."

Because the commission's regular meeting schedule would have resulted in the next session falling on July 3, members voted earlier to push that meeting back by a week. The full panel is likely to vote on a recommendation for or against the request at that meeting, now set for 7 p.m. July 10 in the meeting room at the Whetstone branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

The final decision would rest with the city's Board of Zoning Adjustment.

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