HUBER HEIGHTS — A proposed cell tower to be located off Taylorsville Road in Huber Heights appeared to be a done deal when city council met on Monday night, but it turned out that while the tower appears to be inevitable the deal isn’t quite done.
The tower is to be located on the back of property at 7730 Taylorsville Road owned by the Huber Heights Baptist Temple. The city’s planning commission initially voted against the tower, but Eco-Site LLC and T-Mobile took the city to court over the decision.
“The planning commission’s actions were in line with our code and were very proper according to our code,” City Law Director Jerry McDonald explained. “Unfortunately, our code was pre-empted by the telecommunications law and as such in a review of the facts and circumstances we saw that this falls squarely into a case the city would lose under the Telecommunications Act.”
McDonald said the city’s “hands were tied,” so it entered into negotiations to settle the lawsuit. The city did get T-Mobile to agree to a shorter 175-foot tower and to change the tower’s foundation from a deep concrete pylon system to a concrete pad. The settlement was presented to council Monday night for approval.
“Going into a very bad uphill battle in a lawsuit is probably not a good idea or use of taxpayers’ funds.” Council Member Tyler Starline said. “We can go to a lawsuit, but we have a pretty good idea we’re going to lose and that’s probably not a good idea.”
Council Member Glenn Otto noted that water quality in homeowners’ wells near the site was a major concern and that he thought the city should work on providing access to city water for nearby residents.
Then some of those residents had their say.
Steven Zbinden expressed concerns about how the tower and the tower’s foundation would affect water quality and runoff.
“I hope as the project goes forward the city will have some design input into water runoff and hold them to the foundation so the foundation doesn’t affect our wells.”
Zbinden also questioned the location of the tower on the property. It is set to be located near the edge of the church’s property and Zbinden believes it would have less impact on neighbors if it were located near the center of the property.
Assistant City Manager Scott Falkowski explained how the tower would have to meet city regulations and would be inspected by the city. He also went over the landscaping and grading that is designed to limit water runoff.
Carl and Leslie Liebig questioned the location of the tower. Since it is located near the edge of their property, a large portion of their yard is included in the tower’s “fall zone,” which means no structures can be constructed in that area. They cited safety concerns as well as potential water problems.
In response to a question from Council Member Janelle Smith, McDonald explained the city has no say where the tower is located on the property since the agreement is between the property owner and T-Mobile.
Eve Navarro raised questions about lights and noise that would accompany the tower. She also raised concerns about drainage and the driveway that would provide access to the site.
After hearing from the nearby residents, council took a step back and went into executive session to discuss the litigation. Council emerged from the 20-minute closed-door session and Starline immediately proposed the ordinance be moved to a second reading to give council “more time to explore some of the issues that have come up here tonight.”
That puts off approval of the legal settlement at least until the next council meeting. Council plans to further discuss the issue at its next work session, scheduled for Aug. 22, 6 p.m. at city hall. The next council meeting will be held Aug. 28, 7 p.m., at city hall.