Proposed wireless tower to improve coverage

Residents in and around the New Farmington housing addition just off State Road 11 southwest of Seymour likely will have improved use of cell phones and other wireless devices in 2016.

The city’s plan commission gave unanimous approval Thursday to rezone property at 8584 E. County Road 300N for installation of a wireless communications tower. The property is owned by Paul and Angela Rennekamp.

Indianapolis attorney Russell Brown, representing Parallel Infrastructure Telecom LLC, said Verizon Wireless will serve as the anchor tenant on the 150-foot tower, which has space available for three additional wireless providers.

Verizon has determined there is a need for greater wireless accessibility in the area based on usage patterns. The new tower will allow the company to offload capacity from existing towers, Brown said.

The goal is to offload 20 to 30 percent from at least two towers in the community. The proposed tower will offload from three other towers, located to the north, northwest and northeast, Brown added.

The issue is not that people are unable to make a call in the area, but during certain times of the day, there are difficulties gaining access to a nearby tower because there are too many people using it at the same time. That leads to dropped calls, slow data download speeds and difficulties for in-building calls, he said.

“We used to have towers just along major thoroughfares and in highly commercial areas, but that has changed a lot over the last four to five years,” he said. “Now we are moving closer to residential users.”

In the state of Indiana, one in three adults older than the age of 18 live in a wireless only household, and approximately 50 percent of children live in homes that do not have a landline, Brown said.

The need for wireless service also is a public safety concern and economic development issue, he added.

“Wireless infrastructure is public infrastructure, just like sewer and water and phone lines and cable television,” he said. “It fills that same role in our society today.”

The proposed tower is a monopole or single pole design with no support wires attached, Brown said. It will be constructed on a 100 foot by 100 foot piece of property that is part of 78 acres currently utilized as farm ground.

“This location was chosen to decrease disruption to existing agricultural uses as well to utilize deciduous trees in the area to screen the lower portion of the tower from nearby property owners,” Brown said.

Fencing and landscaping will help shield and protect the base of the tower and ground equipment including security lighting and an emergency generator, he added.

Commission president Don Myers Jr., said he would like the company to add lighting to the top of the tower to make it more visible at night to pilots.

Although located near the city’s airport at Freeman Field, it was determined by the Federal Aviation Administration that the tower is not an air traffic hazard.

“We have discussed this site with the airport and to our knowledge they have no objections,” Brown said.

Last month, airport officials voiced their concerns with another proposed tower going up in the 700 block of Meadowbrook Drive behind Walmart Supercenter. The BZA denied the needed variances for Horvath Communications to build that tower, saying the 150-foot tower would have been on the centerline of the airport’s main runway and could be a hazard for air traffic coming in too low.

Parallel Infrastructure will go before the board of zoning appeals at 7 p.m. Tuesday at city hall to seek a variance to allow for the height of the tower and to vary from R-S (residential suburban) zoning to C-1 (commercial) to allow for construction.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.