BY ZACH SPADT
T-Mobile is proposing a 200-foot tall cellphone tower in the heart of Basin, and city officials are divided on whether or not to go forward with the building permit.
In order for the tower to be constructed, the town must grant a variance (exception) due to the tower’s height.
Planning and Zoning Commission members were unable to reach a recommendation during their Oct. 31 meeting but will take up the issue again during their meeting later this month.
Two members were in favor of approving the variance with three opposed.
According to a letter from Planning and Zoning Commission Chairperson Chris Kampbell, the commission does not have enough information from T-Mobile to make a recommendation for the zoning variance.
Issues raised by the commission include:
Does T-Mobile need a 200-foot tower to adequately provide cell service?
Are there properties in town better suited for building a structure that size?
The location of the tower would be detrimental to the surrounding neighborhood particularly a residence immediately adjacent to the proposed building site.
Kampbell said T-Mobile wants to sell the space underneath the top of the antenna to put other providers on the tower.
“If T-Mobile is putting in a tower that’s 200-foot tall, they don’t really need 200-foot if they’re selling the space underneath it,” Kampbell said. “We’re telling them, ‘We’ll give you a variance as long as it’s not more than you need.’”
Council Member CJ Duncan agreed: “If you read between the lines that’s the reason they’re going up 200 feet.”
“If we give an ordinance for this, what’s next?” Council Member Roger Stickney asked.
Duncan noted that the council has already set a precedent, having granted a variance for Big Horn Co-Op to build a 98-foot grain elevator at their facility in Basin.
It’s also unclear if the town will be able to charge T-Mobile and other companies using the tower franchise fees.
In the event of a power outage, T-Mobile and any other companies utilizing the proposed tower would operate generators to keep the tower running, creating a noise nuisance for nearby residents, Kampbell said.
However, Duncan said the council must treat all variances similarly and fairly. Generators powering the tower would be no different than tractor-trailers sitting at bean silos running through the night as far as noise is concerned.
“We didn’t grill the co-op about noise,” Duncan said.
T-Mobile and the landowner were already in the process of planning the site and approving a deal prior to the town being notified of the potential project.
“It seems like they got everything in place and then came to us,” Town Attorney Kent Richins said. “They should have come to us first.
“They came in backward.”
The proposed tower would be located in a mixed-use zone, meaning the area can be used for commercial or residential purposes.