Tower Plan Casts Shadow On Neighborhood

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The highest commercial building in Payson is the Holiday Inn Express, which stretches 35 feet into the sky.

The motel is nearly one-third the height of two 100-foot wireless telecommunications towers that may be built in front of the town's water tank off Vanderlink and Summit Streets on Indian Hill, and the water tanks near Payson Airport.

Town officials are negotiating with a communications company that wants to build and operate the towers to bring wireless digital communication to the Rim country.

That possibility has left a number of residents in the Vanderlink-Summit neighborhood with a towering anger. And none are more irate than Phil Martin.

Town officials want to take 50 or 60 feet of Martin's property so crews can build a road to the Vanderlink water tank and build the tower just a few feet from Martin's current property line.

"What they're saying is that they want to take our land, and destroy our property values, so that they can put this 100-foot tower up here," he said. "They're doing this, obviously, so the town can make a profit, and the people who own the tower can make a ton of money all at our expense."

Although town officials have promised to pay fair value for the land, Martin said that's little consolation.

"What is 'fair value' when they're destroying our property by putting that ugly-looking property right next to me?" he said.

The towers known in the communications industry as "wireless antennas" or "base stations" are communications devices that receive and transmit radio frequency energy. The tower in question is a "low-gain" or "omnidirectional" antenna that sends and receives signals in all directions from the highest possible elevated area.

Under the preliminary agreement that's been struck between the Town of Payson and the company that would build and operate the towers, Crown Atlantic Company, LLC, the town will receive $10,000 a year in addition to 25 percent of rent charged on as many as three wireless carriers.

If three wireless carriers sign up to use the towers, that 25 percent will put $34,000 a year into town coffers, Payson Town Manager Rich Underkofler said.

That last number is nearly equal to the property-value hit that Martin expects to take if the tower is built based on figures compiled by Payson real estate broker Beth Myers for Robert and Dorothy Carr, who live near a 50-foot wireless communication tower on North Hillcrest in Alpine Heights.

According to Meyers, the Carrs' property lost 15 percent of its value when the 50-foot tower was built. Deduct that 15 percent from Martin's property, he said, and he's looking at an instant loss of $30,000.

But in addition to property value and aesthetic concerns, Martin has other worries, both major and minor.

"At this point we have received no guarantee that this tower will not hurt our TV (reception), our telephone service, or our computer ... or that my grandchildren down the road are not going to get cancer from this damn thing."

Payson Town Manager Richard Underkofler said that the Indian Hill residents are too worried too soon.

"This is not a done deal," he said. "Crown Atlantic has to get a conditional use permit approved by the planning and zoning commission. The tower on Vanderlink is to be considered on March 26, and the one at the airport water tank site will be considered on March 12."

The reason the towers are important, he said, is that "We're in a new age in terms of wireless communication systems. Everything is going from analog to digital which requires an antenna site every one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half miles."

But Martin thinks town officials could have selected less intrusive sites, such as the event center on the south edge of town.

Underkofler, however, disagrees.

"We offered all of the land the town owns to do this, not just the water tank sites," he said. "But the water towers provided the elevation they need, because wireless communication requires "line-of-sight" signal propagation, unlike AM radio frequencies."

Martin remains unconvinced.

"At this point, our plan is to get as many people to the zoning meeting as we can. If it looks like it's headed to the town council, well, I have two piranha attorneys in the Valley who specialize in this kind of stuff. If it requires a lawsuit or whatever it takes," Martin said, "we will do our part."

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