Three cellphone companies wanting to erect new towers in seven different residential areas of Peachtree City don’t have many locations to choose from, thanks to the city’s existing regulations.
The companies want the new towers to improve existing cell service. Several city council members indicated Monday night that new towers would not be approved unless they could be, in the words of Mayor Don Haddix: “as hidden as possible and as far away from residential as possible.”
The potential locations for new towers were presented Monday during a joint workshop of the city council and planning commission.
Among the possible locations are:
• A tiny portion of the Braelinn recreation complex near Oak Grove Elementary where there is an existing baseball field
• The former WASA Flat Creek sewer treatment plant or nearby adjacent industrial-zoned property
• The Peachtree City Police Department
• The Peachtree City recreation and public works departments off McIntosh Trail
• Portions of the Flat Creek golf course: one adjacent to the Wyndham Peachtree Conference Center and another
• Blue Smoke Park, though with little room the tower would be “squeezed” onto the site
• The Kedron Fieldhouse and Aquatic Center
• Several industrial parcels on the west side of Ga. Highway 74 north near Senoia Road; each must be accessed by a railroad crossing near Wilks Grove Baptist Church
• A portion of the St. Paul Lutheran Church property near the Ardenlee subdivision and Crabapple Lane Elementary School
• A large tract of land west of Crabapple Lane Elementary School. The owner, Bonnie Beerbower, has said she will not sell or lease the land for a cell tower
• The Peachtree City fire station off Crabapple Lane near Ga. Highway 74 north.
Staff has not recommended that any of the above locations be approved for a new cell tower.
An attorney representing Verizon said he thought five of the seven areas would have interest from two carriers, which means they could potentially share a tower location in each of those areas.
Each of these locations will have to meet 200 foot setbacks from adjacent residential property and from roads in addition to a 50-foot setback from all non-residential property.
One of the areas identified by one cell carrier for a potential new tower didn’t have any potential sites: an area south of the Glenloch recreation complex between Peachtree Parkway and Robinson Road.
Another potential area mentioned by city staff was quickly dismissed: on top of the new dam for Huddleston Pond.
“I don’t think that would be well-received,” said interim Community Development Director David Rast.
Residents pointed out Monday that Blue Smoke Park and the Braelinn recreation area are both used as landing zones for medical helicopters, so city staff will be looking into how the cellphone towers could affect those operations.
The companies that have been working with the city through this process are AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. They will now evaluate the sites to determine if they wish to proceed with any of them.
Rast said it’s likely that other carriers would be able to co-locate on any new cell towers if any new ones are built.
Some of the sites on the southside of town will have height restrictions because of their proximity to Falcon Field Airport.
The companies wish to build steel monopole towers to a maximum height of 200 feet. That will allow the towers to be erected without any additional lighting as required by the Federal Aviation Administration for larger towers.
There have been no cell tower applications filed with the city, according to city staff.
Resident Kevin Cheney, who lives next to Blue Smoke Park, said he understood the cell companies were in business to make money.
“But your buck is coming at the expense of our ballfields, our volleyball courts. … My front yard is Blue Smoke Park,” he said
Cheney said he didn’t want to wake up every morning to see a 200 foot cell tower outside his bedroom window.
Planning Commissioner Larry Sussberg said some of the locations were seclusive and far enough away from residential property to address the public’s concern “and boost coverage in the community without being offensive to anybody.”
Currently cell towers may only be built on land zoned general industrial, light industrial, open space or agriculture reserve.
One resident suggested the city could allow cell towers to be built on commercially-zoned land so they could perhaps be built on top of buildings.
That, however, could possibly open the doors to numerous cell towers being allowed in the city, Rast said.
As Haddix put it: “Trying to picture Walmart or Westpark with a cell tower stuck on top of it, that’s not a very pretty thought.”
Councilwoman Kim Learnard added that allowing cell towers on commercially zoned land would make it “harder to control proliferation.”
Councilwoman Vanessa Fleisch credited city staff for having the existing cell tower regulations in place to severely restrict the impacts towers can have on residential areas.
City Manager Bernie McMullen told council it was safe to assume most of the audience at the meeting was opposed to putting cell towers near residential areas.
“And parks,” one resident chimed in.
The carriers have told the city the towers are needed to address signal coverage issues, but McMullen noted the city hasn’t gotten any such cell coverage complaints.
“This decision would be much easier if we had 300 people in here demanding additional service,” McMullen said. “… If the vast majority of citizens are happy with the service we are getting we probably shouldn’t change the ordinance. Just leave it the way it is.”
Learnard said the city should not offer any cell tower location that the citizens don’t want.
“I’d like us to consider places that won’t be obstructive to anybody and if they don’t like it, walk away,” Learnard said.
Councilman Doug Sturbaum noted that the Fayette County Board of Education owns land on several school campuses that could be used for new cell towers, but the school board would make that decision, not the city council. Those campuses identified by the city are Crabapple Lane Elementary and Oak Grove Elementary.
Haddix noted that if the city turns down cell towers on city-owned property, carriers will be able to negotiate with private property owners whose land meets the city’s cell tower regulations.
Several residents applauded the city for having a wealth of information on the topic available online. The information is located at www.peachtree-city.org/index.aspx?NID=803