The residents of 14 Park Place don’t like it, but a telecommunications tower will soon be built in eastern Nixa.
The Nixa City Council approved a special use permit for Verizon Wireless to construct a 180-foot monopole tower on an 80-acre piece of property on Majestic Oaks Drive, just off of Highway 14. The property also contains a clubhouse, swimming pool and tennis court that residents of the subdivision use publicly. The council approved the permit with a 5-1 vote.
Councilman Matt Barker cast the lone vote against approving the project after looking at a map of the buffer and the “fall zone” surrounding the tower. If the tower were to fall from its base at a precise angle, the very top of the tower could potentially come to rest on the outer northwest edge of a community tennis court.
“If that were to fall incorrectly—my kids play on that tennis court,” Barker said. “I don’t see how that’s safe.”
Verizon had been leasing space on a nearby water tower, a water tower that thousands of people see every day as the drive into Nixa on Highway 14 coming from the east. The water tower lacks the structural integrity to support the additional equipment that Verizon plans to install in Nixa.
“We’ve been fortunate to accommodate most of the cell providers inside the city limits on our existing water towers,” Nixa Director of Planning and Development Travis Cossey said.
This marks the first time that a wireless provider has successfully come to terms with the city of Nixa for construction of a free-standing tower.
Cossey told the city council that the application met all of the standards for a telecommunications tower set by city ordinance, including setback requirements, an access easement, security fencing in the form of a block and brick fence that stands 10-foot-4 around the base of the tower.
Curtis Hall, an attorney representing Verizon Wireless, spoke on behalf of his client in support of the special use permit application.
“We are trying to improve our wireless coverage in the city of Nixa. We want to add some different services to improve our coverage as well as improve our capacity to accept and provide increased data transmission through our wireless network,” Hall said.
The land is owned by Gehrs Realty, LLC, the developer of 14 Park Place. It’s public use, including the pool and tennis court, became a focal point for argument against the permit for the tower.
“This is not a typical piece of land owned by one person, it’s a multi-use. My kids play on that tennis court, and they won’t if this [tower] gets built,” Barker said. “It meets our ordinance, but it doesn’t make it right.”
Hall said that it would be highly unlikely—if not impossible—for the tower to collapse and fall to the southeast, causing debris to land on the tennis court as was depicted on a map that city council members and staff members viewed at a meeting Nov. 25.
“There is a little bit of misperception about towers. Towers don’t fall over. In fact, we’ve never had a failure of a monopole in the United States or a facility like this, ever,” Hall said.
Hall said the tower is engineering to withstand winds of up to 90 mph with the entire tower covered in a half-inch layer of ice.
“A lot of engineering goes into the structure. They do not fall over at the base, so it’s really impossible for it to fall over and hit any structure like the tennis court,” Hall said. “It’s just not going to happen, couldn’t happen.”
David Fluty, a homeowner on property adjacent to the tower site, said that there are several neighbors who oppose construction of the tower. Verizon will have the rights to lease out space on the tower to other wireless providers, which means there will be several transmitters working off of a single tower.
“There are potential health concerns; it’s hard to prove, you know, tinfoil hat stuff, right? In the future, 5G is coming,” Fluty said. “They might state they have no plans for 5G, but since the 5G phones are out, it’s going to be up there.”
Fluty, who said he is a commercial pilot by trade, argued that nothing in engineering is 100 percent certain.
“You could engineer something to the hilt, but there is always something that could go wrong with engineering,” Fluty said.
Nixa City Attorney Tim Ricker pointed out to the city council that it adopted an ordinance specifically regulating telecommunications towers in 2018. That ordinance created the process for applying for a special use permit for tower construction, which cell phone providers typically do on land that they lease from property owners. Ricker added that the tower is also subject to regulation by the Federal Communications Commission and by state law.
“The issue is whether or not the application is in conformance with our oridnances as they exist,” Ricker said.
Mayor Brian Steele issued a slight challenge.
“This has to be somewhat of a grey area, because (Gehrs) has a common use area he is providing for other people,” Steele said.
“Use and ownership of the property will be a civil issue as to who owns and who has the right to use, and those types of things,” Ricker said. “It’s not an issue that is before you, as to use of the property. The issue is whether or not the application complies with our ordinance.”
Five council members ultimately found that the application was complete and compliant, and voted to approve the special use permit for the tower.