Clintonville Area Commission members saw no reason whatsoever to recommend approval of variances that would permit a 100-foot-tall cellphone tower to be erected on Indianola Avenue.
By votes of 8-0, with Chairman Daniel B. Miller abstaining as he customarily does, the representatives soundly rejected requests to eliminate much of the required screening around the base of such a tower and the setback from residential areas from 200 feet to 45 feet at last week's monthly meeting.
Residents living in the vicinity of 3005 Indianola Ave. have been so vocal and organized in their opposition to the proposed tower that Dana Bagwell, chairwoman of the commission's zoning and variance committee, said at the meeting if such an installation were proposed near her home, she would hope her neighbors would follow their example.
Although the address is a long-vacant home, the property is zoned for commercial uses.
"We work hard to maintain our properties," said Kay Robinson, whose Woodbine Place backyard would be 50 feet from the tower. "A cell tower would destroy that quality of life ... not to mention our property values."
The T-Mobile installation would be a "monstrosity" looming over homes and stunting the growth of the nearby "small but vibrant business community," she said.
"A cell tower is going to destroy all that," Robinson said.
She added she and her neighbors object to the proposal on the basis of appearance, safety and need.
"Columbus building codes call for setbacks for a reason," Robinson said. "There's a very real potential that this could fall into one of our homes."
Kristopher M. Nickel of Hilliard-based Cbjm Development LLC, the representative of property owner August T. Simmons, had a conflict and was unable to attend the CAC's July meeting, Miller said. Nickel asked the chairman to say that he felt he had provided all the information he was able to at a packed July 1 zoning and variance committee session, but some of what people wanted to know is "confidential and proprietary" to T-Mobile and its affiliates.
This includes the oft-asked question about the coverage area the proposed tower would serve, Miller said on behalf of Nickel.
"There are too many negative connotations, true or false," said Eugene Shuman, owner of 2997-3001 Indianola Ave.
"I feel there are other alternatives not far away," said real-estate agent and Sunbury resident Robert A. Nygren, who still owns his first home at 2887 Indianola Ave., now a rental property.
"There is very little documentation of the need or hardship in this case," District 3 representative Libby Wetherholt said.
New District 1 representative David Vottero, in his first meeting since being elected to replace Rob Wood, said he attended the July 1 committee session. To say that Nickel provided a "weak defense" of his position would be an understatement, Vottero said.
"I think he provided absolutely no reason whatever," he said.
The applicant was asked repeatedly to supply examples of similar towers located in proximity to residential areas, Bagwell said.
"He could not do it," she said.
The variance to use a cedar fence around the base of the tower instead of extensive plantings and other screening methods, as well as the one for a reduction from the 200-percent-of-height requirement from residential properties, were unanimously rejected in separate votes.
The next step in the process would be a Columbus Board of Zoning Appeals hearing scheduled for Aug. 26, Miller said. He said the applicant's representative had voluntarily asked that the matter be delayed from the BZA's July session, because the June meeting had to be called off in light of a power failure.
That would have resulted in too many cases being heard at the July meeting, and Nickel anticipated many residents would want to attend and make their feelings known, Miller said.