The cell towers that currently sit on top of the controversial Roos Building can move to a new lot on vacated Hannah Avenue, regardless of what anybody says.
The problem is that one of the carriers needs the tower to be 100 feet tall, not the 75 feet the village permits, which requires a variance. At last week’s Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, the members considered a motion to allow such a variance and, after intense discussion and input from the public, recommended the 100-foot cell tower be allowed.
Patrick Wangler, developer for the much-discussed Roos Building, is in the fifth year of a 20-year contract with several cell phone companies to put the towers on the Roos building and provide service for the area. However, with the upcoming construction of the condominium units, the towers needed to be moved and height was an issue.
Then the village vacated Hannah Avenue where it meets the expressway, and a little known Illinois law provided Wangler with the solution: when Hannah Avenue was vacated, half of the street reverted to the village, which intends to put a billboard on it, while the other half reverted to Wangler, who now intends to move the cell towers to that spot.
“The law in Illinois says half of that street goes to the side it touches and the other half goes to the side the other touches,” Wangler explained. “The reason for that”when that road was originally built, it was built on land donated by property owners on either side. That is why when, in the future, if a road is ever vacated, it reverts back to the people who donated it in the first place.”
The reason for the variance, Wangler continued, is to solve a line-of-sight issue for Sprint PCS.
“One particular series or grouping of microwaves is located on the southeast corner of [the Roos] building. That grouping services Roosevelt Road,” Wangler said. “The microwaves have a 180-degree spread. If we move them to the northwest, then the Ferrara Pan Building next door, which is taller than our building, is in the way.”
Should the council approve, Wangler said, there will be a 4-foot-wide monopole at the lot, with the two carriers, Nextel and Sprint, at different elevations.
“The specific language that the zoning board of appeals wants to use was not yet determined, but they did approve the 100-foot pole in lieu of the 75-foot pole,” Wangler said. “However, the ordinance is to be revisited in 36 months, [and] three years from now we will be required to go back in and see if they will let us keep that 100-foot pole permanently or if we have to reduce it back to the 75 feet.”
Regardless, Wangler said, a permanent monopole will be installed at the site.
“If we come back in three years, and they say [we] have got to go back to a 75-foot pole, then I will take that one handful of microwaves that needs the 100 feet and move that one grouping to the new residential building and leave the others on the 75-foot pole,” he said.
Not all community members were happy with the decision, however.
Kathy Moran, a vocal opponent of the Roos project said the billboard and the monopole will be an eyesore.
“I feel that our park is right there, and we already have all these billboards going up. The tower is just going to add clutter on the edge of the park,” she said. “I know there has been research pointing to possible health issues from living near high-tension wires and I am not sure if the same applies to cell towers.”
Moran added that she was disappointed with the ZBA recommendation.
“The ZBA asked some of the right questions and didn’t get satisfactory answers from the contractor and instead of tabling it and waiting, they went ahead with the recommendations,” she said. “I am concerned whether anyone is really going to follow up three years down the road. Many of us have seen situations that were supposed to be temporary that ended up being permanent.”
Moran said the cell tower request is the latest in a series of last-minute fixes Wangler and his team have brought forth since the beginning of the development.
“Neither I nor any of the people [in Forest Park] are against development per se. We are against his idea of development,” Moran said. “It is in public record that he came and indicated there would be no traffic problem, but the village’s own came and admitted it is going to be a problem. He has frequently not been able to answer questions clearly at these meetings.”
For his part, Wangler dismissed any allegations, saying Moran’s is a lone voice that opposes every aspect of this development. He added he anticipates good solid sales for the condos that will average between $250,000 and $260,000 per unit.
The recommendation will be heard by the council at an upcoming meeting.