Council opens doors for new cell phone towers

By Beth Gilomen

After almost a yearlong moratorium on new telecommunications towers in Champaign, the city council gave direction to city staff on a potential ordinance that would allow for new construction.

The moratorium was approved in November 2005 after Cingular Wireless applied for a special use permit to build a tower in a residential area on Broadmoor Drive. Residents expressed concerns at the time that the addition of a tower would negatively affect the aesthetics of the area.

City staff has been working since then to develop a plan that would address issues raised by residents but allow for the building of new towers.

The new plan would take into consideration location when determining whether or not a tower can be constructed, or if a special permit would be required. It would also require landscaping and fencing around the towers, regulate the distance from residential structures, and put a limit on the height of towers.

Council members said they hoped the ordinance would be worded in a manner to encourage stealth towers, which are built within existing structures to hide them, and co-location towers, which would enable multiple cellular carriers to share the same tower.

“We do want reliable cell phone service throughout the community,” At-large Councilman Tom Bruno said. “We can’t just say ‘no’ to all this new technology or we’ll be stuck in the past.”