Neighborhoods push back on plans for new cell towers
As Alaskans unplug their landlines, demand for better cell service has increased. To keep up, GCI is planning to build a new cell tower in the Rogers Park area.
The disguised tower would be 55 feet tall and located at the First American Baptist church near LaTouche Street and Northern Lights Boulevard. Originally planned to be built at a height of nearly 80 feet in a nearby alley, GCI changed its plans after an uproar from the local community council.
“Hopefully this is something everyone can be happy with,” said Becky Windt-Pearson, corporate and land use counsel for GCI.
Marilyn Pillifant, the president of the Rogers Park Community Council and an 18-year resident of the neighborhood, said cell towers jeopardize the “integrity” of the area.
“It’s got that character. That’s a really nice thing to have these days,” said Pillifant of the neighborhood.
When she discovered the proposed tower would be 25 feet shorter than originally planned — and in a separate location — she was both relieved and disappointed.
“The neighbors will be happy about that for sure. But that doesn’t mean we’re still not concerned about the view-shed, property values and monopolies going up all over town,” she said, adding that community councils around Anchorage have drafted resolutions outlining where cell towers should and should not be built. “It’s a community issue.”
Moreover, she said GCI should have invested in smaller, less obtrusive alternatives to a tower; for example, “small cell” boxes that can be attached to existing light or power poles.
“That workable situation is available, it’s just whether or not GCI is willing to go the extra mile, put out the extra dollars and communicate with communities,” Pillifant said.
An ordinance before the Anchorage Assembly would set guidelines for telephone companies to regulate cell tower construction.
“We’re not going to make everyone completely happy, but hopefully we’ll be able to come to some consensus on both sides,” said Anchorage Assembly Chair Elvi Gray-Jackson.
The Anchorage Assembly is having a work session Friday to discuss the ordinance and its eight amendments. They will draft a new version of the ordinance, which will be open for community discussion at a public hearing on June 21.
Note: GCI is the parent company of KTVA.
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