Updated

Tower denied in College Station

By ETHAN BUTTERFIELD

Eagle Staff Writer

The College Station City Council decided Thursday that a Krenek Tap Road landowner may not have an 80-foot-tall cell phone tower disguised as a flagpole on his property.

But some members of the council did suggest that city officials should work with Sprint PCS, the company behind the project, on plans to build a disguised cell phone tower just down the street at Central Park.

Landowner Arthur Wright said he stood to make hundreds of thousands of dollars on a 25-year lease deal had the city approved the required permit after Thursday’s public hearing. He owns a 3-acre lot at 903 Krenek Tap Road, where the disguised tower was proposed to be built.

The project would require a conditional-use permit, which may be granted at the discretion of the City Council. Council members said they were refusing the permit request because the tower would damage neighborhood integrity.

Wright said he became angry after city officials started discussing whether they should work with Sprint to build the tower at the park, which is owned by the city.

“ They said, ‘Hey, by God, why don’t we just put one across the road on our property, and we’ll get the money?’” Wright said.

Sprint representatives at the meeting said they had tried to work with the city before seeking other alternatives but had difficulty reaching a deal.

Councilman Scott Mears said the council did not intend to steal a lucrative deal away from a city resident.

“ We don’t want to be in the business of taking business away from somebody,” Mears said.

Brock Bailey, an attorney representing Sprint at the meeting, met with City Manager Tom Brymer, City Attorney Harvey Cargill and Office of Technology and Information Services Director Olivia Burnside outside council chambers immediately after the council’s decision.

Bailey said after the informal 10-minute discussion that Sprint would study its options before proceeding on a deal with Wright or the city.

But, he said, Central Park may not be a good location for Sprint because it may not allow for as much coverage as Wright’s land down the street.

“ Based on the information I have now, I don’t think so, but we’re going to look into it,” he said.

Wright said the Sprint representatives told him that a deal to build a tower on his land still could happen. They told him they would make suggestions to the city for a more acceptable design, he said.

Cargill said Central Park would have to benefit in some way before the city could strike a deal with Sprint to locate a cell phone tower there.

The City Council made its decision following more than an hour of presentations from Bailey and another Sprint representative and discussion among members of the council.

Council members said they turned down the tower proposal because it was not “stealth,” and it did not match an adjacent townhome development or the undeveloped land across the street.

“ That’s the whole point of stealth — it looks normal,” Councilman Dennis Maloney said. “An [80-foot] flagpole is not normal.”

Maloney, Mears and fellow council members John Happ, James Massey and Anne Hazen all voted down the proposal. Councilman Robert Wareing abstained from the vote.

Mayor Ron Silvia was absent Thursday, and Mayor Pro Tem Hazen ran the meeting in his place.

The Planning & Zoning Commission recommended denial of the cell phone tower proposal at its April 1 meeting.

• Ethan Butterfield’s e-mail address is ebutterfield@theeagle.com.

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