Some Douglas County residents are speaking out forcefully against placement of another telecommunications tower in their vicinity.
Residents of southwest Douglas County are up in arms about a proposal by Sprint PCS to build a 250-foot telecommunications tower in their vicinity.
The proposal will come up Wednesday at the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission, which is being asked to vote on a conditional-use permit that would allow the tower to be constructed.
Staff at the Planning Department has recommended a compromise that would let Sprint build a tower, but only up to 199 feet high, eliminating the need for flashing lights that might disturb area homes.
The site is about two miles east and a mile and a half north of Baldwin. If approved, it would be the 17th telecommunications tower in the county, according to information from the planning department.
OmniAmerica Development Corp., working on behalf of Sprint, says the tower is needed to provide cell phone service and broadband PCS (personal communication services) along U.S. Highways 59 and 56, which intersect about three and a half miles southeast of the site.
The company says there are no other existing towers in the same coverage area that would be suitable for Sprint's needs, nor are there any other tall structures -- water towers, grain silos, or tall buildings -- where an antennae could be placed that would provide the same coverage.
Under the joint city-county planning code, those are two of the conditions that must be met before a conditional-use permit can be issued for a telecommunications tower.
But residents of the area have objected strongly to the plan.
Some argue it would be an eyesore. Others say it could lower property values, while still others are concerned about the potential impact on migratory birds that use the wooded area around Douglas County State Lake as a stopover on their seasonal flights.
Douglas County Commissioner Tom Taul, who owns farmland that would be in direct line of sight to the tower, said he is remaining neutral until he hears how Sprint and the planning commission respond to the various questions raised.
Other area residents have been more outspoken. As of Friday afternoon, the planning department had received letters, petitions and other correspondence from no fewer than 27 people objecting to the proposed tower.
Those ranged from simple one-page letters from people suggesting Sprint look for alternative sites, to a 20-page booklet by Matt and Heather Brungardt who provided photographs, maps and detailed narrative challenging Sprint on the necessity of the tower and arguing against the proposed placement.
Besides the potential impact on aesthetics and property values, at least one person is concerned about the tower's possible environmental impact.
Joyce Wolf, a member of the National Audubon Society board of directors, said Monday that she had just returned from a board meeting in New York where members adopted a resolution calling on federal, state and local agencies to impose more restrictions on towers to protect migratory birds, millions of which are killed each year when they collide with the towers.
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