City Plan Commission approves ordinance change on towers
At this evening’s City Plan Commission, a zoning ordinance change relating to public safety and communication towers was approved unanimously. Ray Arbet, public works director for Kenosha County, spoke on the agenda item.
The current big orange tower is located on 60th Street and 56th Avenue. “This is a key piece of the public safety network,” said Arbet. It provides key radio equipment communications transmissions for the Kenosha Police Department, the Kenosha Fire Department, and the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department.
An engineering study was done in December of last year, and the results were received in January, which showed that the tower has reached the end of its useful life, which is about 75 years, according to Arbet. He said that they had to look for another piece of municipally-owned piece of property on which to build a new tower. The site chosen was a few blocks west of the current tower, in Nash Park, abutting 60th Street. The height of the current tower is 295 feet, and the proposal calls for the new tower not to exceed 330 feet. The added height is needed to boost the emergency communications for the three departments.
Kathryn Comstock, new commission member, asked if the Nash Park site was the only site that was being considered. Arbet replied that an area behind Shop-Ko was also being considered (52nd Avenue and 51st Street), but it was ruled out due to its lower elevation and the added cost of fiber.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also needs to give their approval because the tower sits within five miles of the airport. The FAA needs to make sure that the tower will provide no hazard to navigation. The FAA approval is being sought concurrently with the approval request for the Kenosha zoning ordinance change so as to save time. Arbet said that they are currently developing specifications for the tower. It will go out for bid within two weeks, and the goal is to have the tower up before the snow flies, in late November.
Alderperson Anthony Kennedy wanted to know what the cost of the conditional use permit would be. Jeff LaBahn, community development director, said that there is a range in cost, from $900 to $1,000. Kennedy wanted to know if a reduced rate could be negotiated for the county since it’s related to the public’s safety.
Comstock also wanted to make sure that the tower would not interfere with park use, and that it would be fenced off and not provide a hazard to playing children. Arbet said that it is in a non-highly active part of the park. There would be a small support building with the tower. No guy wires would be used. A secure fence would surround the tower and the building, and the access would be controlled.
Alderperson Kevin Mathewson commented that, as a former dispatcher, that he thought this was a great thing. “I know what it’s like to dispatch on old equipment. This will make it much easier to hear the radio transmissions.”
Mayor Keith Bosman asked Arbet to comment on the considerable upgrade. “From the county’s standpoint,” he said, “it won’t bring a lot to the table now. But, it will meet our current needs now, plus a 40% capacity. With the added demand for wireless communications increasing, it should accommodate our needs well into the future.”
“Tonight’s approval merely changed the zoning ordinance to allow for the added height for the communication towers, and to provide a means to handle exceptions,” said development coordinator Brian Wilke. The request for the conditional use permit will need to come before the commission, then be approved by the Common Council.