By Rick Palsgrove
Should a cell phone tower be constructed at Asbury Elementary School?
That’s the question the Groveport Madison Board of Education is considering regarding a proposed 145 foot (150 feet including a 5 foot lighting rod), galvanized, single pole cell tower SBA Communications wants to construct for Verizon on the southeast corner of the grounds at Asbury Elementary. The company is seeking a 30 year lease from the district for a 75×75 foot space at the school.
Brian Ramirez of SBA Communications said the tower would be fenced, be set back 150 feet away from all structures and would meet all Federal Communications Commission guidelines.
“The area is still zoned agricultural,” said Groveport Madison Treasurer Tony Swartz. “That means SBA Communications would be required to get a conditional use permit from the Franklin County Economic Development Commission, which administers the zoning for Madison Township.”
To apply, SBA must receive permission from the property owner, which is Groveport Madison Schools.
“They can’t move forward with the county until the school district says, ‘yes,’” said Swartz.
If the district gives its OK, Swartz said the county zoning board of appeals would hold a public hearing before deciding on whether or not to grant the permit.
Swartz told the school board at its Aug. 13 meeting that the district could conduct negotiations for the cell phone tower lease agreement that would include financial compensation for the district and other requirements the district may want to add.
“There’s no limit as to what the board could negotiate for,” said Swartz.
Board members indicated they wanted more information before proceeding.
“What are the potential health and safety issues to be considered? That’s my number one concern,” said board member Libby Gray. “Also, what would our legal obligations regarding the tower be?”
Board member Nancy Gillespie wants public input on the issue.
“If the neighborhood does not support it, we should not,” said Gillespie. “I want to hear from people who live around there.”
Gillespie also asked Swartz if the district could you the potential lease money from the tower for any purpose and if it could be earmarked for use at Asbury Elementary.
“The board could use the money for anything,” said Swartz.
Superintendent Bruce Hoover said district officials will continue to explore the situation and get more answers for the board. He also wants to include Madison Township officials in the discussion.
The board will consider the cell phone tower issue further at a future meeting.