Newton residents made their voices heard Wednesday during a public hearing on the proposed construction of a 140-foot tall Alliant Energy telecommunication tower. During the Newton Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting, locals said their main concern is the proposed location of the tower, 2600 N. Fourth Ave. E., which is by a current substation and near residential housing and Agnes Patterson Park.
Multiple residents contacted the city and attended the meeting after receiving a notice of the proposed construction by Alliant Energy. All of the feedback centered on the citizens’ concerns over the impact the tower would have on the surrounding area, specifically those who reside near the proposed site and the new housing construction planned in the adjacent Fairmeadows North development.
“The city is trying very hard to get new housing built and developed to attract new families in the immediate area,” Don Perkins said. “If I don’t care for having a huge tower very nearly in my own backyard I’m sure that the people who might move to Newton, build homes and raise their families in the neighborhood would probably feel the same and not move to that particular area.”
Vicki Porter, who lives near the proposed site, had similar concerns about the construction of the 140-foot tower.
“This installation of the tower will affect and have a negative impact on not only the neighborhood, Agnes Patterson Park and the arboretum, the new Fairmeadows addition and people coming into Newton from the east,” Porter said. “It’s the neighborhood but it is also the walkers, the bikers, the parents coming to the ball games, people who are using the parks and the events that are going on at the arboretum, all of those things will be affected.”
Alliant Energy representative Heather Dee was at the meeting to help answer questions and to explain why the tower is being built. She said the company has been using this type of system for many years and while working on upgrading equipment, this tower landed in the company’s timeline.
“We have a network of towers all over our service area and they communicate to each other and they all communicate to our distribution center about the performance of the substation it is located in,” Dee said. “We are going to know about peak demand and low demand and we can make adjustments accordingly. We are going to know if a critter got in there and blew something in the substation and we have an outage, we are going to know about all of that in real time.”
Board member Tom Hollander asked why the new tower couldn’t be built on the site of the existing tower near the communications center since that tower would be torn down when the new tower is constructed. Dee said she didn’t know if that would be possible. She said the land the current tower is located on is leased and the proposed land is owned by Alliant.
The board’s role in the proposed construction is approving a height variance for the tower. Newton Planning and Zoning Director Erin Chamber explained the ordinance and the criteria the board would need to go through to move forward.
“For the tower ordinance, the height and setback work together. The height exceeds what is allowable at 50 foot,” Chambers said. “The setbacks typically have to have a 100 percent fall zone. This project has a 100 percent fall zone on three of the four sides of the property.”
The board must also agree on a series of questions to determine if the variance is in the city’s best interest.
After hearing from the public and developing additional questions for Alliant, the board tabled the discussion to the next meeting.
“Because of the lack of information we have in some areas and our requests for additional information, I’m not sure it is prudent at this time to go through with this,” Hollander said.
The next scheduled zoning board of adjustment meeting is Jan. 3.
Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or firstname.lastname@example.org