A 120-foot cell tower will be erected at 215 W. Johnstown Road after weeks of scrutiny by local residents and the Gahanna Planning Commission.

A 120-foot cell tower will be erected at 215 W. Johnstown Road after weeks of scrutiny by local residents and the Gahanna Planning Commission.

The commission on April 11 voted 5-1 to approve the application by Verizon Wireless to place the tower in the parking lot of the Gahanna Lanes bowling alley. It will be on a 2.7-acre parcel on a 60-by-31-foot leased area of property.

David Thom, David Andrews, Joe Keehner, Kristin Rosan and Donald Shepherd voted in favor of the tower; Thomas Wester was the lone dissenter. Jennifer Price was absent.

Verizon real estate manager David Minger said the new tower is needed because customers have experienced blocked calls during peak times as a result of the volume of simultaneous users.

Area residents had expressed concerns about the cell tower, saying it would create an eyesore in the neighborhood and result in decreased property values.

Terry Duris, owner of the Villa Nova apartments, opposed the tower, saying it was in direct view of 55 of his units.

He presented a 62-signature petition in opposition of the tower.

Bob Grant, attorney for Verizon Wireless, said he knows the tower isn't a popular land use but referred to the tower as a necessary utility.

"We respect the neighbors who have spoken in opposition," he said. "Unfortunately, it's a public infrastructure utility that's necessary. We agree with the recommendation of your staff that this is the best location to have the least impact on residents."

Thom said he realizes nobody wants a tower in their backyard; however, the tower is needed so Verizon could provide service to its customers.

"It's a Catch-22, damned if you do and damned if you don't," he said.

The commission also approved a variance request by Verizon to allow a fall zone of zero feet. The approval means Verizon doesn't have to clear an area around the tower in case it should collapse.

A variance to vary landscape requirements failed 3-3. Andrews, Keehner and Wester voted against the measure, and Thom, Rosan and Shepherd voted favorably.

If another cell tower must be erected in the city, Andrews said, it must have landscaping.

"I'm not comfortable with no landscaping," Keehner said.

Rosan said Verizon has a very finite area with minimum space for a future co-locator, and neighbors rejected the landscaping Verizon had offered to provide on their properties.

"It's counterintuitive to install landscaping in a parking lot," she said. "I think the landscape variance is proper."

Thom agreed with Rosan.

"We're here for a tower," he said. "I don't think landscaping will make a big difference."

Planning and zoning administrator Bonnie Gard said the landscaping for some type of plant material would be handled administratively.

"Certainly, they will have a fence with chain link or slat wood to be secure," she said.