TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Local News

May 7, 2014

Residential zones may be suitable for phone towers

CORBIN — By LeeAnn Cain / Staff Writer

There is a possibility that residential zones may be considered suitable for the placement of cell phone towers in London.

That’s the news London Building Inspector Doug Gilbert brought to Monday’s meeting of the London City Council. Gilbert said a recent meeting of the London Planning and Zoning Commission failed to change the zoning of a site on Liperote Way from residential to commercial in anticipation of the coming AT&T Mobility tower.

David Pike, AT&T’s legal representative, was present when the commission made the motion to change the area’s zoning under the reasoning that cell phone towers were not compatible with residential areas. After two hours of discussion, the motion to change the zoning was rejected and it was determined that cell towers are compatible with residential areas.

Gilbert said the reason Pike did not want the zoning changed was because of the wait; it would take two months for the zoning change to go through, and AT&T wanted to move on the cell phone tower as quickly as possible. Gilbert said they were hoping to have a motion passed in the next planning and zoning meeting.

The property on Liperote Way is owned by Cumberland Gap Properties, who applied for the cell phone tower. Cell phone towers are voted on individually and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. While the property is zoned as residential, there are no occupants and if it is agreed for a tower to be built on a residential zone it will be under conditional use, according to Gilbert.

“Unless something changes, there will probably be a cell tower,” Mayor Troy Rudder said. “A cell tower can go just about anywhere with this ruling.”

City Attorney Larry Bryson said the commission was a joint planning and zoning commission, meaning there is equal representation from both London and Laurel County, and Gilbert said the vote lay along those lines–city representatives opposed the placement of cell phone towers on a residential property while county representatives favored it.

Bryson added the decision set a precedent in allowing cell phone towers in residential areas, but Council Member Jim Hays said it was not a legal precedent if the decision could be easily changed in the future.

Bryson said the decision will never come before the city council, and it is an issue planning and zoning must tackle. Gilbert is legally required to inform city council of the decisions made regarding the tower, however.

“Cell towers are not compatible with residential areas. Period,” Hays said. “Many people in London will agree. They are a blight.”

“Most city zoning members will agree,” Rudder said. “We don’t want towers in our communities.”

Rudder then said he would have Gilbert and Bryson look over an ordinance concerning the matter.

“We need cell phone towers, but they need to be in a properly zoned area,” Bryson said.

Gilbert said the city was threatened with a lawsuit from AT&T if they changed the zoning of the Liperote Way property, but added they also faced a potential lawsuit from citizens for placing a cell phone tower in a residential area. He added Pike was also the person who trains members of the planning and zoning commission, and pointed to a potential conflict of interest.

There will be a public hearing on the matter at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the basement of London City Hall.

Connie Cook, a resident of the Sublimity area of London, came before the council to request help with the problem of people speeding on the road by Sublimity Elementary School. According to Cook, the London Police Department would respond if called, but she said they did not patrol the area very often.

Cook said the area had no sidewalks and cited motorcyclists as the worst offenders in terms of speeding. She requested rumble strips on the road at first, but Council Member Bobby Joe Parman said he would rather have small humps  that wouldn’t “rattle you senseless.”

“We just want some help out there,” Cook said. “It’s getting to be bike season. You can’t even walk down that road.”

She added that it was the worst on weekends, early mornings, and in the evening after school.

“The school has so much going on in the evenings, like softball practices,” Cook said. “We’ve had to redirect people to a different exit at Sublimity Elementary’s parking lot because of the danger.”

Rudder said that solutions such as speed bumps have come under fire because cities have been asked to pay damages on cars that bottomed out because of the obstacles. Parman said a solution was to space the humps so that a car wouldn’t bottom out, and said they would not be as tall as speed bumps.

Jack Riley, who will run against Rudder for mayor in November, said the speed humps alone weren’t enough.

“If you don’t have extra police patrol in the area, you will just give cars and motorcycles ramps,” Riley said. “You need extra patrol or speeders will just have a fun game to play.”

During the discussion, Rudder texted London Police Department’s Interim Chief Derek House to send police to patrol the area, and said House responded that he had sent cars to patrol Sublimity.

The motion for small speed humps was unanimously approved.

In other council news:

–Mike Hamm was re-appointed onto the London Utility Commission.

–Ed Hyde was appointed to fill an empty spot on the London Corbin Airport Board.

–Hays requested a resolution to send to Governor Steve Beshear’s office to request  funding through Kentucky Homeland Security for a new tornado siren in Sublimity. Hays said Sublimity needed a siren because other sirens did not reach the area, and Sublimity was “flat and prone to tornados.” Hays also mentioned the elementary school and Sublimity’s high population density. Hays said he had no idea how much a tornado siren would cost, but he hoped funding from Homeland Security would offset or eliminate the cost to the city.

–London Downtown Manager Chris Robinson updated the city council on the progress of Cruising on Main and Thursday Night Live. Robinson said Cruising on Main would take place a little later this year than normal — from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Robinson also said the total cost of Thursday Night Live was $18,000 and it was covered by a sponsorship from Cumberland Valley National Bank, along with several other sponsorships. Robinson said the only cost to the city would be in police protection.

Parman suggested Robinson save money by using work release inmates from the Laurel County Correctional Center to set up the stage for Thursday Night Live, but Gilbert said inmates may not be reliable and could not leave for work release if there was a lockdown.

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