Landenberg residents protest planned cellular tower
Several residents of the Nivin Lane-Watson Mill community in Landenberg voiced their displeasure over the planned construction of a 125-foot-tall high wireless cellular communications tower on 1511 Yeatmans Station Road in Landenberg by Eco-Sites, LLC, a Durham, N.C.-based supplier of wireless and infrastructure solutions. Their complaints were heard at a formal conditional use hearing at the New Garden Board of Supervisors meeting on April 17.
Moderated by Township Solicitor Vince Pompo, the hearing invited attorney Christopher H. Schubert of the firm of Riley, Riper, Hollin & Colagreco to represent the applicant, while also permitting residents at the meeting to apply for party status, in order to allow them to speak at the hearing.
Residents said that the planned placement of the tower – adjacent to the Watson Mill-Nivin Lane community – would, if built, obstruct their views of the adjacent White Clay Creek Preserve and negatively affect the property values of their homes.
The proposed tower would be constructed on the site of the former Little Stenning Farm. Built of galvanized steel, the tower will be of a monopine design -- a monopole disguised as a pine tree. Due to more stringent zoning laws and the need for more towers in densely populated areas, wireless carriers have been forced to come up with alternatives to traditional lattice towers or monopoles.
In addition to its base height, the tower will also include a five-foot high lightning rod at its top, and will be approximately the same height as many trees that border these properties.
At the start of the hearing, Schubert accepted the testimony of several applicants who had applied for party status, but also rejected a few, based on the proximity – and visibility – of their homes to the proposed site of the tower. He also rejected the application of attorney Thomas Oeste, the township solicitor of London Britain Township, who entered the township's name in the list of those applying for party status. Whether or not London Britain Township will be included as a party in future proceedings will be determined by the board, as will the applications of two property owners.
“The township relies on real estate tax for all of its income and is concerned that the addition of the cell tower will negatively affect the property values of the adjacent tower,” Oeste said. “It just so happens that these properties probably have the highest residential assessment in all of London-Britain, so it may have a significant impact.”
Schubert called 17-year Landenberg resident Fred Nelson as a witness to the applicant, who said that the proposed cell tower is “desperately needed for safety reasons, if nothing else,” he said.
Nelson, an avid hiker in the nearby White Clay Creek Preserve who is in his 80s, said there is very little cell phone reception in the preserve, which he said could be dangerous in the event that a hiker is not able to reach anyone in the event of an emergency. He also said that his wife's heart monitor doesn't automatically work, which requires her to make phone calls in order to get it to operate.
Several homeowners then countered Nelson's testimony, often interspersing their questions with comments that centered on their fear that the cell tower would ruin their “forever view,” destroy the environmental aesthetic of the area, and affect the value of their homes.
The majority of the homeowners who spoke at the hearing live in single-family homes on Nivin Lane, which were first constructed in 1999, and in the early 2000s. The online search engine Spokeo.com indicated that these homes have a property value average of $731,000 and a household income average of $222,000. A five-bedroom, 7.5-bathroom, 11,651 square-foot home currently for sale on Nivin Lane is listed at $1,859,811, with 2015 property taxes listed at $29,030.
After more than an hour of back-and-forth testimony, the conditional use hearing was suspended, and will resume prior to the Board of Supervisors meeting on May 15, beginning at 7:00 p.m.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.