Tower plans under review

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A utility company is proposing to build a 190-foot communication tower in a wooded area off Summit Drive, south of Chimney Rocks park, on the lower portion of a site previously targeted for a 140-foot tower.

Plans identifying the new site are under review in Blair Township and already have cleared a review by the county’s Planning Commission.

Summit Drive resident John E. Young said he was glad the township planning commission tabled action on the plans until September, so they can be further reviewed. But Young, who objected to plans the Hollidaysburg Water Authority made in 2011 to build a 140-foot tower close to his house, said he won’t take issue with the latest location.

“I don’t want to hinder progress,” Young said.

Despite the change in location, Summit Drive resident Neil Port said he is not convinced.

“This is such a beautiful part of Hollidaysburg,” Port said. “I’d rather have that kind of tower built in some remote area rather than adjacent to a lovely residential area.”

Blair Township supervisors are scheduled to review the proposed plans during their monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

About two years ago, Young and Port criticized the water authority’s plans to build a 140-foot tower to accommodate meter reading equipment. The authority owns land near their properties and targeted the tower for a higher portion of the sloping site.

“They were going to put it right outside my window,” Young said.

Since then, the water authority and Verizon have put together a plan that will allow Verizon to build the tower on the lower portion of the water authority’s land and allow the water authority to put its meter reading equipment on Verizon’s tower. The placement would be at no charge to the water authority, water department Director Rick Pope said.

Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Laura Merritt said construction of the tower site could start as early as next year but definitely not this year. The tower is planned as a 4G LTE site or Fourth Generation, Long Term Evolution site, to enhance data transmissions, and starting next year, to enhance video voice transmissions, referred to as VoLTE.

“In building new sites, that’s the direction we’re heading,” Merritt said.

When the county planning commission reviewed the proposed plans, they noted that the water authority’s water tank is currently located on the site. Plans show the site measuring 70 feet by 100 feet, to accommodate the tower and its communications building. Access to the site will be restricted by a security fence.

Plans also indicate a 12-foot wide stone access road will be built to access the leased area with enough room for parking and turnaround to accommodate Verizon’s vehicles.

The planning commission indicated that site will not accommodate any full-time employees.

“Communication towers have the potential to be controversial when placed in close proximity to residential areas,” assistant planner Jamie Klink concluded in a letter being sent to Blair Township supervisors. “However, the area in which this proposed tower will be constructed is not in the immediate vicinity of dense residential use; therefore, concerns over conflicting land use patterns should be at a minimum.”

When the township planning commission reviewed the plans, they delayed action until September, pending receipt of a subdivision plan spelling out easements, who has rights to the access road, stormwater detention features and related features.