State College

College Township denies wireless antenna proposal

Verizon Wireless will have to look elsewhere to install a wireless antenna after a proposal by the telecommunication service was denied Thursday.

The plan faced stiff competition from local residents after Verizon proposed the placement of a cellular antenna along Cortland Drive across from the Nittany Orchard Park. The proposal was brought before township staff in the fall.

Verizon submitted plans for an “in kind” replacement of an existing utility pole, zoning officer Mark Gabrovsek said, replacing the existing wood utility pole with a new metal pole of the same height, plus an additional 15 feet for the antenna array at the top. It was the opinion of the township solicitor that an in-kind replacement of the pole with one the same height should be considered as an existing structure.

A motion to deny a proposal to place a cellular antenna within an R-1 residential district failed a Township Council vote on May 19, with the council seeking additional information regarding the proposed pole replacement and other concerns.

A revised plan was submitted to the township Tuesday, newly appointed Chairman Rich Francke said. Detailing the plan, developer Eric Brinser indicated conditional changes Verizon would be willing to accept, including restricting the new pole to a diameter increase of no more than 25 percent, reducing the antenna profile from a 12-foot panel to a 6-foot panel and decreasing the size of the additional pole length needed to support the array to meet the 15-foot requirement.

In regard to a request to relocate an attached equipment shelter from the plot in the neighborhood to the bottom of the adjacent hill, Brinser said the 45-degree slope made building the shelter on the hill not a feasible option.

Councilwoman Carla Stilson made a motion to deny the proposal based on three arguments — that Verizon is not the pole owner and hadn’t proved it has standing to make the application; Verizon hadn’t sufficiently proved that the pole is an in-kind replacement, making it a tower-based facility, which is not allowed in R-1 zones; and even if it is considered non-tower based, the antenna are not camouflaged properly and not unnoticeable to the casual observer.

The motion received unanimous support by council. Several Cortland Drive residents who were in attendance gave the council standing applause.

After the decision, Brinser could not say if Verizon would seek an alternate location for the antenna.

Francke commented that the wireless facility ordinance does not seem to follow the path the council hoped it would. He directed township staff to schedule further discussions regarding the ordinance for the next available meeting.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews