The view from the "high ground" is excellent, but willingness to compromise only makes it better!

When arguing an issue sometimes it makes sense to step into the other guy’s shoes.  So i
n the spirit of compromise, I am providing three simple ideas that could help MetroPCS and KCC to win their application for variance.

1.       Don’t build the tower on one of the lowest parts of your property!  The MetroPCS FAA study filing shows that they intend to build a 174.9 foot tower at a location on the Country Club grounds which is 874.1 feet above sea level.  This is among the lowest spots on the KCC property!  If we assume that the purpose of a telecom tower is to elevate the antenna array to an optimal altitude, then we must ask why would anyone want to build a  tall tower in a low spot?  Why not build a shorter tower on a higher spot? 

That's why I recommend building the tower at a higher elevation.  According to the City of Kalamazoo G.I.S. mapping system, the elevation in the area near the KCC main clubhouse ranges from 906 to 912 feet above sea level.  Building at this height would reduce more than 37 feet from the overall height of the tower.  For those who assert that a cell tower is consistent with the character of a residential district this is a perfect way to prove your point and demonstrate the strength of your convictions!
2.       Another way to reduce the overall height of the tower is to reduce the number of collocation sites.  These are the “rental spots” on the tower where other wireless carriers can attach their antennas in exchange for a monthly rental fee. (Tower rental is an up-and-coming industry, especially among companies who are trying to build their balance sheets in advance of possible merger or acquisition.)  The tower design submitted in September depicted 5 additional collocation sites.  These are spaced at ten foot intervals beginning 120 feet above ground.   The math is simple; each collocation site that is removed saves 10 feet of height.

The Telecom section of the Zoning Ordinance requires that new towers above 100 feet in height provide at least two additional collocation sites.  (Why would they want 5 collocation sites when only 2 are required?)  If MetroPCS built a tower with just 2 collocation sites, it would meet this requirement and save a total of 30 feet in tower height! 

These two simple recommendations have already saved a total of 67 feet, reducing the total tower height from 174.9 feet to 106.9 feet!  But why stop there?

3.       If MetroPCS and/or KCC request a waiver to the collocation requirement, they might even be able to eliminate the other collocation sites altogether!  This would give them exclusive occupancy of the tower, and save another 20 feet!   It’s true that MetroPCS will not collect as much rental revenue from this approach, but that shouldn’t be a problem.  Their project description states that they’re building the tower to improve wireless signals for their customers.  It makes no mention of rental revenue, so this change could not possibly represent a hardship for MetroPCS. 

These simple steps have brought the tower height down to 86.9 feet above grade, a 50% reduction in height based solely on moving the tower and eliminating the collocation sites!  Doesn’t that make more sense? 

Here is the best part; the Zoning Board of Appeals is not limited to simply granting or denying variance applications.  They are expected, empowered, and duly authorized by the local ordinance and state law to impose conditions on the construction of the tower in order to minimize adverse impact to adjacent properties and to uphold other applicable considerations of the Zoning Ordinance. 

Let's get back to reality. The ZBA should not approve this application for use variance!.  Moreover, MetroPCS is going to have a very hard time producing the amount of compelling proof necessary to win a variance.  Just the same, I hope that the tower proponents will examine this possibility:  what if the ZBA grants the variance, but only on the condition that it is built at the highest point on the KCC parcel and with 3 or less of the lucrative antenna collocation points?  Would you still want the tower?

KCC members, if that idea is unappealing to you then perhaps you will understand why the tower does not appeal to us, your neighbors. 
 
 
On October 29, I reported that MetroPCS had decided to take more time to prepare their variance application.  This meant that they would not appear on the November 12 Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) agenda. 

At the time, it appeared that they would submit a new (complete) application by November 12, so as to allow a hearing of this issue at the December 10th ZBA meeting. 

Today I learned that MetroPCS missed the deadline!

They were originally scheduled to appear before the ZBA for a public hearing on October 8.  They did not appear; they sought postponement.   We assumed that they would want to have their application heard at the next meeting on November 12.   Since the application and related materials are subject to public review, I visited the planning office each week to see if they had improved on some of the more glaring deficiencies.  On October 28 I was informed that MetroPCS had actually withdrawn their application, but would likely reapply in time to meet the November 12 application deadline for the December 10 meeting.

Today was the deadline for resubmission, so I scheduled another visit to the planning office.  For some reason I was surprised by what I learned; they did not complete a new application.  The MetroPCS application for use-variance will not appear on the December ZBA agenda!

I am tempted to analyze their reasons for delaying.  I am even more tempted to make guesses and assumptions as to what their next move will be.   In terms of their motives, there are three distinct possibilities at this point:

1.        They are unprepared, OR,
2.       The delays are a tactic to disrupt opposition, OR,
3.       Both 1 and 2, above.

We have a good deal of relief in the zoning ordinance.  It requires that their application cannot be brought to a hearing without a public notice.  All land-owners with property within 300 feet of the Country Club boundary must be informed by mail.  In addition, a notice of hearing must be published in the newspaper “not less than 15 days prior to public hearing.”

Here is the bottom line, if they’re determined to build the proposed tower, then we will have to be ready for them at the hearing, regardless of the date.  

Here is our challenge; STAY READY!

As I have done before, I want to encourage you to continue to write to the members of the Zoning Board of Appeals to express your concerns.  We should also continue to talk with our friends and neighbors.  Get them involved.

Finally, we have to be ready to attend the ZBA meeting as soon as it is scheduled.   If MetroPCS is engaging in a deliberate delay, we cannot allow it to shape the outcome of this issue.  

We will use this website to keep you informed. 

As always, you should feel free to check the site for updates.  New content will always be highlighted on the WELCOME page.

In addition to this, we are building an alert list.  Sign up for alerts on the EMAIL ALERTS page.  When there is a new development, we will send an email to your email address.   This way, you don’t have to worry about missing the hearing, or any important developments.

Above all, please remain involved.  This is about our neighborhood and our homes!
 
 

Hearing before Zoning Board of Appeals likely

delayed until 10 December.
 

I stopped at the Planning Office on Wednesday, 10/28 to review the contents of the MetroPCS application for variance file. 

I was informed that MetroPCS has (temporarily) withdrawn their application. Good news, right?  The answer is "yes" and "no." 

They withdrew this application, but they intend to reapply in time for the December 10, 2009 meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).  If I had to guess, I would say that they recognized that their application was poorly written, and that it lacked much of the needed supporting documentation.

As an aside, I have to admit that I am pretty surprised that a large company, involved in the business of acquiring tower-sites, could have been so poorly prepared in this instance.  They had no problem obtaining a Temporary use permit in the City of Portage for their temporary wireless tower in August of 2009.  That application, and the materials which supported it(all available on the City of Portage municipal web site)  was well written, clear and complete.  The same is true of the materials related to their May 2009 variance request with the Kalamazoo ZBA.   

Did they think that the ZBA would ignore the ordinance, or the stringent requirments to obtain a use variance? 

If they are able to produce the needed documentation before November 12, then they will likely reapply for a hearing at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals on 10 December.  

We are dismayed by the fact that MetroPCS has twice delayed the public hearing of this issue.  At the same time, we're committed to making the most of the additional time available.

The planning office will maintain an active file relative to the proposed tower.  They will continue to receive and catalog letters and petition signatures.  If you haven't written to the ZBA to express your opposition, the time has never been better.

In writing to the ZBA member, remember that these are good folks, (civic-minded volunteers in fact) who are knowledgeable of the zoning ordinance, and committing to upholding it.   Their role is to interpret the law as it relates to this application.  Your interest and feedback helps them to guage the potential impact to our neighborhood.

Even though MetroPCS has withdrawn their application, their intent has not changed.  They will submit a new application, most likely on or before 12 November.  If and when they resubmit, we must be prepared to voice our opposition.

In the meantime, please continue to share your feedback.   In the last week, I have heard from several people who state that they have been spreading the word to friends and neighbors who were unaware of this important issue.

Please continue to get the word out.
Please write or email the member of the ZBA. 
Please remain vigilant. 
Please plan to attend the ZBA meeting on 10 December.

We will do our best to keep you posted!
 
 
GRAND RAPIDS PRESS:  MetroPCS withdraws requests for cellular antennas on GR steeple, school chimney.  Click here to read the story on MLive.com

This is an excellent story and very encouraging.  In summary, MetroPCS wanted to place cellular antennas atop a church steeple and school chimney.   The city planning requirements in Grand Rapids required MetroPCS to camoflouge these antenna.  MetroPCS stated that doing so would diminish the effectiveness of the antennas, and had intended to appeal on this basis.  It now appears that they will reevaluate the need for the new antennas. 
Picture
This photo may provide some context for the Grand Rapids request.  This photo depicts 3 new MetroPCS antennas atop the apartment building at 550 W. Crosstown Parkway in Kalamazoo.   As in Grand Rapids, MetroPCS had to seek a dimensional variance in order to install the antennas.  Minutes of the June 11, 2009 meeting of the Kalamazoo Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) indicate that MetroPCS felt their "application conform[ed] to the wireless section of the ordinance," and that it "appli[ed] to the spirit of the ordinance" as well.   The "wireless section" that he referred to is 4.2W in the zoning ordinance.  Paragraph 4 of that section deals with requirements related to collocating antenna(s) on existing structures.  It specifically requires that "the color of antennas blends with with existing structure and surroundings."


Take a look at the photo.  The antennas were painted to match the color of the brick.  MetroPCS represented that their new antennas atop this building would conform to the letter and spirit of the ordinance.  You be the judge.  Did they keep their promise?

I want to be clear on this.  I beleive the ZBA acted in good faith as it relates to the ordinance and to MetroPCS.  I also beleive that MetroPCS did not live up to this good faith, as is evidence by the ramshackle appearance of their new antennas at 550 W. Crosstown Parkway.

The minutes of the June 11 ZBA meeting also indicate that :
                                                           44 notices were sent to nearby residents
                                                           Nobody sent any response in opposition
                                                           nobody spoke in opposition

Compare this with what happend in Grand Rapids.  People spoke up in opposition.  The Press picked up the story, and MetroPCS recognized the wisdom in withdrawing their application.  I applaud their decision, and I call upon MetroPCS to make the same wise decision regarding their application for variance at 1609 Whites Rd in Kalamazoo.

 
 
Earlier today I asked the question, how many towers/antennas could there be within 4.0 miles of the Kalamazoo Country Club at 1609 Whites Rd.

Curiousity got the best of me, so I looked.  I want to encourage you to see for yourself.  You can do this at www.antennasearch.com.  Best of all, it's free. 

Here is what I found after I entered the address.  According to AntennaSearch, there are a total of 93 towers and 373 Antennas within 4 miles of the proposed site!  Best of all, the proposed MetroPCS tower already shows up on the map!  They must be very confident indeed. 

Click here to see the proposed MetroPCS tower depicted at AntennaSearch. 
 
 
MetroPCS is making waves in Grand Rapids too!

It seems they are interested in bolting antenna on the outside of several prominent church steeples in the Grand Rapids area.

There is a great article in the Grand Rapids Press.  Cick here to read it. 

Among other things, the article points out the fact that MetroPCS is committed to a cheaper antenna technology that requires twice as many antennas as other providers.

I want to re-emphasize the importance of innovation.  If cities didnt require phone companies to install their phone lines in an orderly fashion, cell phones may never have been invented!

Mr. Harger's article also includes a link to a very interesting site:  www.antennasearch.com.  Using the site, he found a total of "570 antennas sending and receiving signals for cell phones, radios and pagers within a 4-mile radius of [Grand Rapids] City Hall."   

I wonder how many antennas there are within a 4 mile radius of the Kalamazoo Country Club?

 
 
It is entirely possible to improve cell signal in your home or without ruining your property value, or that of your neighbors.

A quick Google search with the key words "cell signal booster for home" was very informative. Click here to see the search results.

Each vendor offers products that are compatible with the various major carriers.  This product is expressly designed for Sprint and MetroPCS users.

These options are affordable, practical, and reflect the right type of innovation.  Additionally, adding a personal cell signal booster to your home is SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE.  Why should I have to deal with a tower in plain view of my home in order to improve your cell coverage?

The video  below (which I found on YouTube) demonstrates both the ease of installation and effectiveness of one such signal booster. 

Please note:  In providing these links and videos, it is not our intent to promote any product.  Rather, we are interested in introducing any ideas that will mitigate the need for an unnecessary cell tower.
 
 
This is my home.  It's in a good neighborhood, and I get along with the folks who live near me; my neighbors.

Sometimes neighbors forget themselves.

I had a neighbor once who used to let his dog "do his business" in my yard.  Don't get me wrong, this was a good neighbor.  We would talk, and say hello when we saw each other.  We'd usually exchange a bottle of wine or a tray of cookies at Christmas, or stand at the fence and talk.

We also talked (several times) about his dog's odious contributions to my lawn.  The first talk was apologetic and full of promises.  The second talk was tense for both of us.  He must have seen the look on my face the third time, because he turned around and went back into his house.

I was shocked, and feared that I had pushed this issue to the point where a dog-turd would end our relationship.  A minute passed slowly as I picked up a few sticks.  Then, without further ado, my good neighbor came back out of the house.  He had a smile on his face and a bag in his hand.  He took care of that little mess because (I think) he understood the symbolic importance of his act.

The Kalamazoo Country Club is a good neighbor.  They take great care of their lawn.  They are generally quiet.  Likewise, I have tried to be a good neighbor to them.  Here is the problem; they got a new dog named MetroPCS.

Their dog isn't going to come into my yard.  Rather, it is going to drop a 170-foot tall, energy-emitting turd in prominent view of my home. Humor aside, a 170' tower will be visible from many homes, and become part of the skyline around many more.  It will add the appearance of a manufacturing district to our residential neighborhood.  It cannot help but to depress property-values that are only now coming back from a dangerous depression.

I hope my neighbor will recognize their un-intended imposition on our neighborhood before their actions become irreversible.  If not, I am confident that the Zoning Board of Appeals will uphold the letter and spirit of the Zoning Ordinance.
 
First Post! 10/07/2009
 
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