Second meeting planned for comment on cell tower proposal in southwest Champaign

CHAMPAIGN – City officials are hoping a second neighborhood meeting to brief area residents and gauge their reaction to a proposed T-Mobile telecommunications tower will be better attended.

The meeting to discuss T-Mobile's proposal to construct a 119-foot cell tower behind the Old Farm Shops near the intersection of Kirby and Mattis avenues will take place at 7 p.m. Monday at Carrie Busey Elementary School, 1605 W. Kirby Ave., C.

At the city's request, T-Mobile organized a second neighborhood meeting to inform residents after a March 31 meeting was not well attended, city planner Rob Kowalski said.

"People have expressed to me that people currently are not in favor having it there," said Lorrie Pearson, the city's land development manager.

The purpose of the tower is to improve mobile phone coverage to T-Mobile customers in that area, particularly as more people drop their landlines, said Mark Wilson, external affairs manager for T-Mobile's central region.

"People are demanding in-home coverage, and this facility is responding to in-home demand," Wilson said.

He added that the cell tower also has an emergency services benefit: If customers of a different carrier have a weak signal in that area, their phones would bounce off the T-Mobile tower if they dial 911.

T-Mobile organized the neighborhood meeting to answer residents' questions and "hear what they have to say," Wilson said.

"The responses vary," Wilson said. "In many cases, more and more, as people are relying on their cell phones, people are happy to get the wireless coverage."

Tom Siwe, a resident of the area, said he has talked to many of his neighbors who think the proposed tower would be an "unnecessary eyesore."

"It's a beautiful residential neighborhood and they want to put a cell tower up in the middle of it," Siwe said. "It's mind-boggling."

Siwe said he and other residents "were a little upset" that they were not notified of the March 31 neighborhood meeting.

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