Citizen Action & a Cell Tower Project in the 4th Ward

***DeKalb city council will consider the special use permit during its regular meeting Monday, April 27.***

While the University Village Planned Development proposal seems to have grabbed the headlines today, last night’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting was also notable for neighborhood pushback against approval of a special use permit for a new 140-foot cell tower on the southeast side of DeKalb.

Since last November, P&Z has discussed a request made by Central States Tower (CST) for a permit to place a Verizon cell tower/antenna at 1300 South 7th Street even though CST did not follow procedures required by city code in the application process — and despite city staff’s recommendation to reject the application for that same reason.

Public hearing proceedings revealed that CST did not arrange a pre-application conference with city staff, nor did it pursue a feasibility investigation into co-locating its tower on an existing site, such as the parcel hosting the AT&T tower a couple blocks north of the proposed site. The pre-application conference and co-location due diligence are required by DeKalb’s Unified Development Ordinance.

Pushback came from a group of neighbors who reside near the AT&T tower, led by David Lehman who lives on Karen Avenue.

Mr. Lehman presented slides showing the CST application, the applicable city code, and quotes from previous meetings that he obtained by purchasing videos of the meetings and transcribing the discussions.

The slides also included emails suggesting AT&T had not ruled out working with CST on a co-location project, as well as photos showing that the chair of P&Z, Michael Welsh, is renting space at the same location where CST wants to locate the new tower.

Though Mr. Welsh did not preside over the public hearing concerning the CST application last night, several of the neighbors expressed concern over a perceived conflict of interest and bias earlier in the hearing process. P&Z is governed by a code of ethics that requires a commissioner to recuse him/herself from participating in matters involving a conflict of interest or a public perception of a conflict of interest.

Following the public hearing, P&Z voted to reject the request 5-0.

Besides Chair Welsh, commissioner Deborah Nier also was absent from the meeting.

**Edited 1 p.m. to correct the vote to 5-0.**