City approves cell phone tower plan

Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Audrey Neudeck colors a photo during the National Night Out event in Greencastle's Robe-Ann Park on Tuesday. An estimated 450-500 people from area families participated in the events to acquaint them with local police, firefighters emergency medical personnel and others who make Putnam County a safer place to live.

Plans by Verizon Wireless to construct a cell phone tower at the Putnam County Fairgrounds moved another step forward Tuesday night with the Greencastle Board of Zoning Appeals granting several variances for the project.

Company representative Bob Clutter told the board they are planning to erect a freestanding, 190-foot tower behind the tractor pull area on the east side of the fairgrounds. The company is hoping to lease an area measuring 80 feet by 80 feet from the fair board.

Fair board President Ken Heeke attended Tuesday night's meeting and said fair officials support Verizon's plan.

Six-month-old Samuel Moore, held by friend Amanda Watson, tried to converse with Greencastle Fire Department's Sparky Fire Pup during the National Night Out event in Robe-Ann Park Tuesday evening.

The completed tower, according to Clutter, will have a lightning rod on the top, which measures an additional 9 feet, bringing the total tower height to 199 feet.

BZA member Jinsie Bingham asked if the tower would be lighted at night, to which Clutter responded that the Federal Aviation Administration does not require lights for towers less than 200 feet tall.

Another concern among BZA members was lightning strikes during fair time. Verizon officials in attendance at Tuesday's meeting said the tower would be grounded, which they believe would minimize the risk that lightning could strike people attending the nearby fair.

Three-year-old friends Nicholas Bennington (left) and Conner Barcus check out the interior of an Operation Life ambulance with O.L. Director Kraig Kinney during the National Night Out program in Greencastle's Robe-Ann Park on Tuesday. Despite the heat, an estimated 450-500 people turned out for the free community program.

Board member appeared satisfied with Verizon's requests and approved them unanimously. They requested first, to stray from the city's ordinance that the tower be surrounded by an "opaque" fence of wood or stone construction. Instead they requested to erect a chain link fence and surround it by pine trees.

Secondly, they requested the tower be allowed to exceed the 120-foot maximum tower height in the current zoning ordinance. And thirdly, they requested the setback for the tower of 200 feet from the property line, be reduced to 50 feet due to the existing property lines in the area.

The board approved all the requests unanimously, but Heeke said the lease for the land itself, has been approved by the fair board but is awaiting a secondary review.

Verizon officials said the reason for the tower is to improve cell phone coverage in the area. There was no word on when they actually plan to erect the tower.

The city BZA meets at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at city hall.

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