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Archer Ave. Cell Tower Would Aid Reception, Hurt Aesthetics, Neighbors Say

By Joe Ward | October 19, 2017 6:12am
 A cell hone tower is proposed for the northwest corner of Archer Avenue and Mary Street, pictured.
A cell hone tower is proposed for the northwest corner of Archer Avenue and Mary Street, pictured.
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BRIDGEPORT — A proposed cellphone tower to be built along Archer Avenue would improve local reception and wireless Internet, officials said, but neighbors worry about its impact on community health, aesthetics and future development.

A company working with T-Mobile has an agreement with the Standard Companies, a consortium of businesses at 2601 S. Archer Ave., to construct a 100-foot-tall cell tower on the property.

The tower would be built on top of a building in an industrial stretch of town and would be next to even taller light poles for the Stevenson Expy., officials said. It would be "partially" within the existing building, which is already zoned for a cellphone tower, they said.

 Mike Bieniek of LCC Telecom Services shows renderings of how the proposed cell phone tower would appear from various angles.
Mike Bieniek of LCC Telecom Services shows renderings of how the proposed cell phone tower would appear from various angles.
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But residents said it could still be an eyesore and have unintended negative consequences.

That's because the company seeking to build the tower is requesting a zoning variance to place it five feet from the sidewalk, as opposed to the required 20 feet, according to a notice about the zoning appeal sent to neighbors.

Original plans called for the tower to be built in the middle of the building, but the building's foundation and logistics made the plan unworkable, sad Mike Bieniek, zoning director for LC Telecom Services. So the tower must be built closer to the street, he said.

"If it were located in the middle of the building," the tower wouldn't need the zoning variance, Bieniek said at a community meeting Tuesday at McGuane Park.

But neighbors believe the tower, which would be surrounded by a wrought-iron fence, would be a magnate for debris and could stymie development along Archer Avenue.

"That does not sound attractive at all," Kate Sadowski said. "The area is already blighted."

Ald. Patrick D. Thompson (11th) called a community meeting Wednesday over the tower after neighbors raised concerns over the proposal at a recent CAPS meeting. The city's Zoning Board of Appeals will rule on the requested variance Friday morning at City Hall.

Thompson said cell towers in urban areas are becoming more of a necessity thanks to smart phone use, and the tower would not impact future development of the area.

"These cell towers are going up all over the entire city now as our phones become small computers," Thompson said. "There is development coming this way."

Indeed, there are at least five cell phone towers already in the immediate vicinity of the proposed tower, officials said, including at 30th and Halsted streets and at Archer and Ashland avenues.

The new tower would be in the middle of those existing towers and would add phone and internet capacity for the area's smart phone users.

Daniel Agresta, CEO of APC Towers, the company that would construct the tower, said his company builds antennae systems in hundreds of facilities frequented by the public, including in schools and stadiums like the United Center.

"There are antennas, hundreds of them, in those buildings so you can use your phones," Agresta said. "That just shows antennas are everywhere."

Officials cited three studies by the government and groups like the American Cancer Society that show that radio signals from such towers are not harmful, but some neighbors present at the meeting were unconvinced.

Others said such a prominent antennae would slow down the development and other improvements that have come to other parts of the neighborhood, but not necessarily that stretch of Archer.

"There's such opportunity in the neighborhood. We're staying here hoping that opportunity comes through," Cori Stankowicz said. The tower "is more of the same, instead of going in a positive direction."