Olentangy Valley News

Tower talk

Rival companies want space to improve service

Deals would provide funds for township, city but resident opposition could become a factor

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Liberty Township trustees approved a lease agreement for a new cellphone tower in a township park at their meeting last week.

On the same night, May 7, city of Powell officials discussed the possibility of a cellular service provider leasing land in the city to build another tower.

Liberty Township Administrator Dave Anderson said the trustees unanimously approved an agreement that would allow AT&T to build a 150-foot tower at South Liberty Park. Under the proposal, the company would pay the township about $650,000 over 20 years to lease the southeast corner of the park, located east of the Liberty Township/Powell YMCA on North Liberty Road.

Anderson said income from the lease could partially fund maintenance at South Liberty Park, which the township plans to start developing this summer. While an anonymous donor has offered to cover the majority of the development costs, maintenance of the site could cost the township up to $150,000 per year.

Anderson said township officials are trying to find creative ways to pay for the maintenance costs instead of going to taxpayers. He said the lease agreement is one potential way to pay for some of those costs.

"We knew this to be a better way, or at least a way worth exploring," he said.

At the anonymous donor's request, the park will feature competition-level softball diamonds. The township also is planning to build multipurpose fields at the site for youth football, lacrosse and soccer.

Development work at the park could begin this summer. Anderson said he hopes to get two grass-growing seasons in before the park opens next year.

Anderson said he views the proposed location of the tower -- at the rear of the park, separated from residential developments by trees and railroad tracks -- as appropriate.

"It's probably as sparsely populated and as good of a site as you're going to find in southern Delaware County," he said.

Anderson said AT&T is not ready to build on the site just yet. He said the corporation still needs to complete its "due diligence ... to determine the appropriateness of the land."

Once AT&T finalizes a proposal for the tower's construction, neighboring property owners will be notified of the plans. If any of the neighbors object, the plans will go to a public hearing.

While AT&T is considering a tower at the Liberty Township location, Verizon is looking for a way to improve its service a few miles south in the city of Powell.

Powell Development Director Dave Betz informed the city's Development Committee on May 7 that Verizon was looking to build a new tower in the city.

"They really need to upgrade their service in our southeast quadrant of the city," Betz said.

Betz said the city has identified two possible locations for what would be a 112-foot tower: Library Park and Arbor Ridge Park.

Library Park is adjacent to the Powell branch of the Dela-ware County District Library on South Liberty Street, while Arbor Ridge Park is located at the southeast corner of Bennett Parkway and state Route 750.

"With all the improved technology, smartphones and tablets, (Verizon is) finding -- and I hear from people that live in that area -- that (the service) is not that good," Betz said.

Betz said, in his opinion, the most suitable site for the tower would be in the northeast corner of Arbor Ridge Park. The area is the proposed site of the city's community garden.

City officials estimated a lease with Verizon could earn the city between $1,000 and $1,200 per month.

Councilman Jon Bennehoof said he would not be surprised if residents of neighboring subdivisions fought a plan to build a new tower in the area.

"People want better service, but then when you talk about putting a tower (up), they go, 'Oh wait a minute, I didn't want it in my backyard,' " he said.

Councilman Tom Counts said he thought the city should seek feedback from residents if the cell tower talks go any further. He said there is a definite need for improved cellphone service in the area. "Residents have got to speak up," he said. "Which is more important: service or aesthetics?"

Councilman Brian Lorenz said the city's administration should advise Verizon to proceed with plans to build a tower in the city at its own risk, noting resident opposition could be fierce.

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