The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 10, 2013

Geneva planning commission tables new Verizon cell tower

By MARGIE NETZEL - mnetzel@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

GENEVA — The city planning commission sent Verizon Wireless executives back to the drawing board, upholding the city’s ordinance on height restrictions.

The board tabled Verizon’s request for a variance to extend the city’s height restriction by 164 feet, allowing for a cellular service tower to be erected just behind the Shops on Broadway, where a Verizon store is located.

Radio frequency design engineer for Verizon, Jim Svodoba, said the tower would “remedy a significant service gap” in the area.

Svodoba said the placement of the proposed tower is crucial to service in the Geneva area.

“To be effective, a new antenna facility must be integrated into the existing network so that it can transmit, receive and offload calls to and from (other towers) without interference,” he said.

The big problem in Geneva, Svodoba said, is “call blocking.”

“When a wireless network reaches the maximum number of calls it can handle at one time, new calls initiated from within the service area can’t be connected,” he said. “This is called ‘call blocking.’”

“Verizon has experienced dramatic data growth, which continues each year to push our cell sites to the limit. Verizon Wireless not only builds cell towers for enhanced coverage, but also for capacity offload for existing towers.”

The height variance, which Starkey said isn’t an uncommon zoning condition, would pave the way for the tower construction.

“The city has granted height variances for towers in the past,” Starkey said. “There is a tower at the fire training center on Austin Road and one on North Avenue in Geneva Township. This is by no means unheard of.”

Several residents opposed the construction of the tower, which would border the residential area behind the shopping plaza just off the Route 534 corridor.

In a letter to the board, Brian Kresevic told the board he opposes the tower because of “visual blight and damage to our community aesthetics.”

“I believe Verizon Wireless needs to prove that there are no other areas where the tower may be located,” he wrote.

Planning commission documents show Verizon Wireless considered five specific properties for the tower, but all were disqualified for reasons including lack of available land space, wetland issues, zoning limitations and property owners who are “non-responsive” to their requests.

Kresevic said perceived property values and the health concerns of living so close to such a tower must be considered.

The planning commission members agreed with Kresevic and tabled the measure until Verizon Wireless engineers can present a number of viable alternative sites for the tower, including the Geneva Middle School property on Sherman Street.