At a hearing at Misericordia University on Jan. 16, interested and concerned residents questioned Verizon employees closely about the proposed cell phone tower construction at the Twin Stacks Center.
According to Borough Solicitor Jeffrey Malak, Verizon must prove to Council that the project meets all criteria of the borough's zoning regulations.
Malak explained that, according to Pennsylvania law, the burden of proof lies on Council and the residents of Dallas Borough if they don't want a cell phone tower at Twin Stacks. He also said that objections to the project from residents or Xouncil members must show that the project adversely affects the health, safety or welfare of the community.
Dallas resident Charles Dube said that he felt this was financially punitive. He asked how a group of citizens could go up against Verizon, expressing fear that his and other residents' property values would decrease if the tower is constructed.
Verizon has developed plans to build a cell phone tower on part of the property known as the Twin Stacks center located at 1100 Memorial Highway. The area is presently zoned for industrial use.
Verizon is seeking permission to construct a tower which will be 125 feet tall with a five foot lightning rod on top. The installation would also include a service shed and a couple parking spaces. The company also plans to build a gravel stone road to access the tower and equipment. No one would work at the tower but maintenance personnel would visit to make sure the equipment was functioning properly.
Max Shradley, a professional civil engineer and representative of Rettew Associates Inc., answered questions about plans for the site. Residents whose properties lie close to the proposed tower questioned Shradley closely about the appearance, the noise and possible safety issues related to the tower.
Shradley said the only noise on the site would be created by a diesel generator which would be used in the event of a power outage.
The engineer also showed a series of pictures showing how the tower would appear from different parts of the borough, offering plans for landscaping based on a request by the borough's planning commission.
Shradley also showed photos created by a process called visual analysis. A balloon was floated to the proposed level of the tower and pictures were taken. Then pictures of a similar tower were digitally inserted into the picture. He showed six views of the tower from various places in the borough.
Residents also expressed concern about the safety of the proposed road, pointing out that children play in the woods in that area.
Andrew Petersohn, a professional electrical engineer and owner of dBm Engineering P.C., began his part of the presentation explaining the need for an additional cell phone tower in the area.
He said that Verizon is required by the FCC to provide adequate service to the area. He said that new towers are built based on several factors, including customer complaints, drive testing to find gaps in service, network statistics and a process called propagation modeling.
He explained that the presence of Misericordia University represented heavy data usage and that students often use data-hungry devices which depend on cellular service.
Petersohn explained that Misericordia lies in between two cell phone towers and devices used on campus often pingponged or switched from one tower to the other while being used.
One resident asked why the tower could not be placed on the campus since the university was creating a large demand for services.
Misericordia President Michael MacDowell answered that question, saying that Misericordia lies in both Dallas Borough and Dallas Township and isn't zoned as an industrial area in either political entity. He said it would require variances to allow construction of a tower on campus.
Council representatives said a booklet created by Verizon which outlines its plan and supports its case for building the tower would be available to interested residents at the borough building.
The hearing will continue on Feb. 20 with additional testimony from Verizon. After Verizon has completed its presentation, residents may present objections to the project.
During the regular Council meeting which followed the hearing, Council voted to approve its first ordinance of 2013 which will ban smoking in the borough building and on borough property.
The borough will seek applications for a part-time police officer to serve in the Dallas Borough Police Department.
The next council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 18. The conclusion of the hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 20 at Misericordia. The hearing will be followed by another Council meeting at 7:30 p.m.
The burden of proof lies on Council and the residents of Dallas Borough if they don't want a cell phone tower at Twin Stacks. Objections to the project from residents or council members must show that the project adversely affects the health, safety or welfare of the community.