The height of four cellular telephone towers may be a small detail in the planning for The Oread hotel at 12th Street and Oread Avenue, but details matter. They matter to the community and they certainly should matter to the city’s planning staff.
Although city planners said they were not surprised by the 50-foot cellular towers atop the hotel, many other people who had seen the official drawings of the hotel submitted to the city were taken aback. That’s because the towers, which double as flagpoles, were shown as only about 17 feet tall on the official drawing. The taller towers were mentioned in a footnote and added to the plan after most of the project had been approved by city and planning commissioners.
City planners said they were aware of the footnote and the increased height of the towers, but many other people who may have been concerned about the addition were not.
Even city commissioners may not have been entirely clear on the subject. A staff memo they received before voting on the project said the overall height of the building had increased from 114 feet to 123 feet because of the addition of elevator equipment on the roof. With the addition of the cell towers, the overall height of the hotel now is 156 feet.
Perhaps there was no intention to deceive anyone about the plans, but it raises some questions. The height of this building, which towers over the surrounding area, was hotly debated by city and planning commissioners, as well as many local residents.
The bottom line for this project is that the towers are there, they are legal, and they likely are going to stay. Whether or not people are concerned about this particular outcome, they perhaps should be concerned about the process that led up to it.
The whole point of planning is to deal with the details of a project and, especially when a project has drawn criticism, to make sure those details are disclosed as fully as possible to the public. City planners appear to have fallen short of that goal in this instance.
Also, developers should be totally honest and aboveboard about their intentions, particularly when dealing with a controversial matter.
We hope it is a lesson learned and that city officials and developers handle such details more carefully in the future.