City awaiting higher OK on new cell tower

DANVILLE — City officials are holding off on giving AT&T Wireless a building permit for a 199-foot cellular tower on a site that's close to Provena United Samaritan Medical Center's helicopter landing pad, because the city wants the Illinois Department of Transportation to give approval to the tower.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said the Federal Aviation Administration has already approved of the location of the proposed tower, but IDOT has not yet "weighed in on the issue." He said the city must first get some indication that IDOT is OK with the tower's location before the city approves any building permits for the telecommunications tower.

Last month, AT&T Wireless applied to the city for a variance from the city's regulations that prohibit a tower more than 150 feet tall. AT&T wants to build a 199-foot tower on Aqua Illinois property on West Fairchild Street immediately northwest of the hospital on Logan Avenue. The emergency helicopter landing pad is on the north side of the hospital.

Chris Milliken, planning and zoning manager for the city, said AT&T wants the tower to improve cell phone coverage in the area. But the Aqua Illinois property is river bottom land, bordering the North Fork River, and is also the site of the company's water treatment facility, so the site is at a much lower elevation than the hospital and most of the surrounding area. Milliken said the company needs the additional 49 feet to get the tower high enough to be beneficial. Milliken said the city has several other towers that exceed the 150-foot regulation.

The Aqua property is already zoned agricultural, so no zoning change or special use permit was necessary, just the variance for the proposed tower's height, which the city's zoning board of appeals granted at a public hearing on July 23.

John Heckler, public development director for the city, said the city's ordinances don't require city council approval for a variance request.

Heckler said FAA officials concluded that the tower would not be a hazard to air navigation. He also said that all the information has been submitted to IDOT officials, who are currently reviewing it.

Prior to the variance hearing, the city sent letters to all property owners in the immediate area, including the hospital, of AT&T's variance request and public hearing. No one from the hospital attended the hearing to object when the zoning board of appeals approved the variance request.

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