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Chester County Press

Editorial: The line between reception and forever views

05/23/2017 02:43PM ● By Richard Gaw
For those who attended the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors meeting on April 17, they were treated to the sausage making of local politics – the thorny wrangle of what happens when commerce and technology threaten the contentment of the local gentry.
During an introductory conditional use hearing, about a dozen residents of the Nivin Lane-Watson Mill community in Landenberg cried foul over the proposed installation of a 125-foot-tall high wireless cellular communications tower on 1511 Yeatmans Station Road, by Eco-Sites, LLC, a Durham, N.C.-based supplier of wireless and infrastructure solutions.  Residents said that the tower, if it is constructed, would obscure their views of the adjacent White Clay Creek Preserve, as well as negatively affect the property values of their homes, and destroy the environmental aesthetic of the area. 
The dilemma is this: On one hand, the tower is needed. In the relatively rural hamlet of Landenberg, poor cell phone reception is often Topic No. 1 – a complaint not only steeped in inconvenience but in safety as well. It would improve public welfare by increasing the availability of wireless telecommunication service, foster competition among the other approved wireless providers, and comply with all FCC regulations.
On the other hand, the tower's monopine design would fool no one. The idea that the tower – one that would vaguely resemble that of a pine tree -- will not be distinguishable from the tall trees that rim the edge of the development and the adjacent White Clay Creek Preserve – is laughable. From the view of a back deck or side porch or kitchen window, the mere site of a fake steel tree poking in the middle of an otherwise pristine meadow would be almost criminal. 
The cell tower would destroy their “forever view,” the residents said at the hearing.
They are right – maybe – because the future of this cell tower and the way it would impact those who live in that neighborhood rests on the precise location of its placement in Little Stenning Farm, and the willingness of both sides to compromise, and the township's willingness to moderate.
We propose that the Nivin Lane-Watson Mill community appoint two to four residents to serve as a representative entity and, likewise, we ask the same of Eco-Site, Inc., in order to begin discussions with the township's Zoning Hearing Board, in order to determine a location for the cell tower that will a) limit the potential amount of interference with the view of as many homes and properties as possible; while b) maximizing the effectiveness of the tower to increase reception to as many homes as possible.
Will that compromise strike a chord with both parties? Will it involve boots-on-the-ground surveying, disagreements by both parties and a slow and sometimes stubborn stumble to a solution?  Would it fall outside the lines of accepted legal avenues that rely on protocol like conditional use hearings? Perhaps all are true, and yet, as we await Round Two of this conditional use hearing at the township building on June 19, consider this: We've got a large company with a mission to stick a 125-foot-long tower into the ground – albeit with a sound business plan – and a lot of angry people who are afraid that their voices will have little or no impact in the final decision.
We introduce this suggestion into the argument.