The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

May 8, 2013

Cell tower schedule questioned

BY JENNIFER BAILEY
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — A building permit has expired to build a cellular tower near Presence United Samaritans Medical Center. But city officials say building permits expire all the time and new ones are issued.

Construction hasn’t started yet on the tower.

The issue was brought up by residents Vince Koers and Lynn McLinden at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.

The city-issued building permit for the controversial cell phone tower to be erected just west of Logan Avenue expired on May 1.

“It happens all the time,” said urban services director David Schnelle about building permits. “Building permits can be extended.”

He and Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said permits have expired on Ross Dress for Less and the new McDonald’s being built at Bowman and Main streets.

The business must apply for a new building permit, in which city officials generally approve because the project and plans have already been approved through the city.

Construction can be delayed for whatever reason.

Koers and McLinden brought up the controversial water tower issue from 2008 in which neighbors and zoning commissioners questioned the validity of a special-use permit issued to then-Interstate Water in the late 1980s for the construction of the water tower. There was no expiration date for the permit.

Aqua Illinois constructed the new water tower off Old Ottawa Road near the Denvale subdivision in 2008.

Koers and McLinden said the city needs to keep current with permits, and there also should be time limits on variances.

The Danville Zoning Board of Appeals approved the AT&T-requested variance for the tower in July 2012.

The variance allows a 199-foot tall telecommunication tower at 1300 W. Fairchild St., in lieu of the allowed 150-foot height limit at that location. The tower will be located on vacant land Aqua owns north of its water treatment plant in the northeast corner of its fenced-in area. Aqua Illinois will lease the land to AT&T for the tower.

Concerns were voiced by the public and aldermen about the tower’s proximity to the hospital’s helicopter pad. The helicopter pad sits about 900 to 1,000 feet away from the tower location.

A helicopter demonstration last year provided some visual and verbal reassurance from helicopter pilots that the proposed cell phone tower isn’t a concern for flying helicopters in and out of the hospital for medical transport.

The city also has since made changes to the make-up of the zoning board of appeals and the process for approving future zoning variances.

According to Aqua Illinois officials, only surveying at the cell tower site has occurred.

“So far nothing is scheduled,” Aqua Illinois Area Manager Bob Ervin said about construction.

However, he anticipates it will start soon.

City officials have tried contacting AT&T representatives and the contractor, but they haven’t gotten any response.