New Albany has a rare opportunity to get out in front of an issue that for some time has frustrated residents and village council members alike, according to council member Chris Wolfe.

New Albany has a rare opportunity to get out in front of an issue that for some time has frustrated residents and village council members alike, according to council member Chris Wolfe.

Council has been looking at ways to regulate the appearance and placement of cellular phone towers and antennas within the village from several angles.

"Our residents have come to expect some control over what they see," Wolfe said. "I think this is worth pursuing."

Wolfe initiated the discussion at council's May 18 meeting when he suggested New Albany potentially could build a tower of its own and rent space for antennas to mobile phone providers.

On Aug. 17, David Minger, a project manager in network real estate for Verizon Wireless, told council the three reasons to own a tower are to control aesthetics, earn revenue and promote economic development in areas without coverage.

He said a number of requests for shorter towers would be coming in the future because the taller towers sometimes run at capacity. The shorter towers would use a different frequency, picking up calls that might not get through on the taller towers.

"As the number of subscribers grows, (the towers) fill up," he said.

Existing towers must be 120 to 145 feet tall and within sight of each other, Minger said. If the village were interested in building its own tower, it would have to deal with the same regulatory issues as the mobile phone companies, as well as the Federal Aviation Association and Federal Communications Commission, he said.

If the village were not interested in owning a tower, Minger suggested looking at village-owned property for appropriate tower sites. The village would have to ensure proper zoning on those properties and then market the sites to cellular phone providers. Using that option, the village would be able to control the location of towers, transfer development costs to the cellular provider and earn revenue from leasing public land for the tower.

The village also could require towers to be camouflaged. Minger said he has seen towers made to look like everything from a clock tower to a pine tree.

"They can be made to look like pretty much anything you want," he said.

Village administrator Joe Stefanov said the village identified three areas of public land that could be considered: the New Albany service department facility on Bevelhymer Road; the area between Village Hall and the New Albany police station; and Swickard Woods Park.

Council also heard from attorney Chris Miller, who has worked with Gahanna and Dublin to write legislation for cellular towers. Miller said the current village code would not be a problem, but additions to the code could be made as the market changes and new issues are found.