Council and utility company talk new infrastructure


Illinois-based OH Exchange Facilities Networks LLC, a subsidiary of Mobilitie, is seeking to install a 120-foot-tall mono-pole near Urbana University, City Council learned Tuesday.

John Bear, a representative with Mobilitie, said that, as a certified public utility, Mobilitie has access rights to public right of way and looks forward to developing a working relationship with city officials.

“We understand that there are concerns, whether it may be safety, aesthetics or location, that we look forward to working with the city on and finding the appropriate location and figuring out the appropriate process,” Bear said.

Zoning Officer Adam Moore said the mono-pole would be one of the tallest structures in the city if the project comes to fruition. In comparison to current city infrastructure, Moore said, at 120 feet tall, the mono-pole would be roughly two-thirds the height of the city’s water tower (188 feet tall) on the south end of the city, while the water tower on the east end of the city behind Kroger stands at 280 feet tall.

Bear said the base of the mono-pole would be 4 feet wide.

Along with the height of the structure, council questioned the need for such infrastructure and how it would blend in at the proposed site – a grassy area in the right of way along the west side of College Way between Browne Hall (Miller Center for Visual Arts) and the arched entrance (beginning of Blue Knight Drive) to UU.

Addressing the reason for such infrastructure, Bear said that while it will assist with current broadband technology, his company is more focused on helping lay the ground work for future technologies.

“Traditionally, it has been (used by) wireless carriers,” he said. “Ours is different. It speaks more to the future of technology. It really speaks to the M2M (machine-to-machine) technology and the internet of things (IoT) technology.

“Basically, it’s providing the infrastructure for the technology that is going to be rolled out,” Bear added. “One of the selling points is that it’s an economic driver.”

As for aesthetics, Moore said, in discussing the issue with Mobilitie, the company can add a decorative feature to the mono-pole, perhaps something to do with UU, considering the proposed location.

“There are things we can do,” Bear said. “Ultimately, it’s our position that we want to work with jurisdictions in terms of aesthetics. The only concern we have is that it doesn’t interfere with the technology itself.”

City takes first step in mono-pole matter

After a lengthy discussion on the matter, council voted to suspend the three-readings rule and pass on first reading, by a 4-2 vote (council members Ray Piper and Gene Fields voted no; council member Doug Hoffman was absent), a resolution responding to OH Exchange Facilities Networks’ request to install the mono-pole.

The resolution states that per the city’s codified ordinances, telecommunications facilities on city-owned land is considered a conditional use that requires approval from the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). In addition, the resolution states a site plan must be presented to the Planning Commission (PC) for review.

Upon approval of the telecommunications facility by the BZA and PC, the resolution states, the director of administration will negotiate a franchise agreement with OH Exchange Facilities Networks per Ohio Revised Code.

Moore said he expects the utility company to submit a conditional use permit application within the next few weeks. If that occurs, the issue is expected to be presented to the BZA at its next scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. on Nov. 14 in the municipal building’s fire training room.

In other business:

•Council waived the three-readings rule and passed on first reading a resolution accepting Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant funding in the amount of $43,149 and agreeing to provide a local match of $8,629.80 (20 percent).

Administered by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, VOCA funds provide support services to crime victims and witnesses.

•Gas line work in the downtown area is wrapping up, with Columbia Gas expected to begin the restoration phase Oct. 31, Director of Administration Kerry Brugger said.

Weather permitting, it’s the company’s intent to have everything completed by Thanksgiving, he added.

•Mayor Bill Bean read a proclamation declaring October as national Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

•With construction underway on a new high school on Washington Avenue and more students being forced to park on the street due to the closure of two school parking lots, council member Dwight Paul asked drivers to be cautious of pedestrians in the area who could be hard to see between all the parked cars.

By Joshua Keeran

[email protected]

Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.

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