Cell tower plans not yet taking flight

A Mississippi-based company’s plans to erect a wireless communications tower on the southeast side of Seymour have been delayed for at least a month.

Horvath Communications is proposing the tower be built on property in the 700 block of Meadowbrook Drive as a way to help improve cellphone reception for Verizon customers in that area.

Seymour Plan Commission gave the petition a favorable recommendation to the company’s request for a land use variance during an Oct. 8 meeting.

One Freeman Municipal Airport official, however, raised concerns about the proposal when it came up for discussion before the city board of zoning appeals during a meeting Tuesday night at city hall.

Airport manager Don Furlow told the five-member board that the first time he knew about the project was when he read about it in the newspaper.

Furlow said if constructed at the proposed location, the tower would be in center line of Runway 5/23. The proposed tower would be about 2 1/3 miles away from the east end of the 5,500-foot long runway, he said.

“We would like to see them take a good look at it and see what other areas might be better to get it off the center line for Runway 23,” Furlow said.

He said he would like the airport board to have a chance to look at the proposal before the board of zoning appeals makes a final decision.

“They meet Nov. 16, so I would like to give them an opportunity to look at it and provide input,” Furlow said. “It could have an impact on the airport.”

Seymour resident Burl Grant, who owns a plane and flies out of the airport, said the proposed tower is a good distance away from the airport, although there could be issues if a twin-engine plane lost an engine on takeoff and couldn’t gain enough power to top it. The tower’s location also could be a problem if a pilot has to rely on navigational equipment because of inclement weather, Grant said.

David McGee with Horvath said he did not have an issue with delaying the decision to allow the airport board to look at the project.

The company has a lease agreement with the property owner for a 100-foot-by-100-foot area, or about a quarter-acre, McGee said during the plan commission meeting.

The property is presently zoned for single-family residential use and would need the variance to commercial-industrial to allow for the tower.

The proposed building site lies on part of a 28-acre tract that currently is cultivated fields.

“What we are proposing is a 150-foot-tall pole-style wireless communications tower,” McGee said. “It’s off Meadowbrook Drive but backs up to the rear of the Walmart Supercenter.”

McGee said the proposed tower meets the city’s property line setback requirements; however, it will require a height variance to be built. That variance also will have to come from the board of zoning appeals.

The tower’s purpose is to fill a coverage gap that Verizon has in the area, McGee said.

“One hundred fifty feet was minimum to reach Verizon’s coverage objective,” he said.

Existing towers are a little more than two miles away, with one to the east on the other side of Interstate 65 and the other to the north that AT&T owns.

The new tower will allow Verizon to “offload capacity from existing sites and provide greater data and voice coverage in the area,” McGee said.

The tower’s design is the most modern style available, consisting of a single pole with no support wires, and it has the capacity to hold additional wireless tenants, he said.

“If additional carriers come along in the future, this will provide an option for them for co-location to minimize the need for future structures,” he said.

During the plan commission meeting, Commissioner John Reinhart, who also is a city council member, asked if the company had been in contact with the Federal Aviation Administration to get its approval. He also wondered if it would impact air traffic’s approach to the city’s airport.

McGee said the FAA had determined the tower would not be an air hazard.

Plan commission President Don Myers Jr. said he thought it would be a good idea for the tower to have some kind of light on it for any pilots that might fly in to the airport too low.

Although the FAA does not require the tower be lit, McGee said, if the board thought lights were needed, the company would comply.

“There is a dual-mode light available that would be off during the day and turn red at night,” he said.

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Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.