Throughout the Toledo area, many new metal poles slightly taller than typical telephone poles and with the bulk of common stoplight supports have been erected during the past two years or so.
(TNS) — The newest wave in cellular communication hasn’t reached Toledo, Ohio, quite yet, but its infrastructure has.
Throughout the Toledo area, many new metal poles slightly taller than typical telephone poles and with the girth of common stoplight supports have been erected during the past two years or so. City officials had issued 129 permits for them although not all have been installed.
Many have been in commercial areas and attracted minimal attention.
But in residential neighborhoods, some poles have gone up close to homes whose owners have been surprised to see utility trucks show up and start work.
All have gone within the city right-of-way next to the public streets, just like telephone poles or underground utilities do, so they’re not subject to zoning approval the way older cellular towers that occupy a plot of land are.
But homeowners such as Lynette Swantack, who lives in the 2100 block of Belvedere Drive in South Toledo, said the city or the cellular company could at least have written her a letter so she wouldn’t have spent money on sod that the tower contractor then damaged with its trucks.
“They put that thing up and didn’t tell me anything about it,” Ms. Swantack said before questioning why it wasn’t placed in the electric-power easement that runs between her property and her neighbors’ rather than in a separate spot along her side yard on Greenglen Drive.
Gary and Joyce Groneau, who live on Camille Drive just off Byrne Road, are particularly upset that the steel tower in front of their yard wasn’t put up instead along the busy street just around the corner, perhaps in front of one of the fast-food restaurants on the other side of Byrne.
“There’s no reason why they should put it in our front yard rather than across the street,” Mrs. Groneau said. “Who wants to buy a house with a big cell tower now? Along with having Byrne Road right there.”
Doug Stephens, Toledo engineering services commissioner, said city officials did review the Camille/Byrne location but found “multiple issues” with placing the tower directly on Byrne, most notably existing utilities both above and below ground as well as Byrne’s width.
Mr. Stephens said he believed the city could ask the tower to be moved no farther than 50 feet from the requested location, and the far side of Byrne is farther away than that.
While it does not allow a municipality to set any requirement that has the effect of blocking cellular service to any location, however, the Ohio law governing “small cell facilities” provides wider pole-placement latitude.
It allows a municipality to “propose an alternate location ... that is within 100 feet of the proposed location or within a distance that is equivalent to the width of the public way in or on which the new wireless structure is proposed, whichever is greater.”
The wireless operator must accept the alternative location if it can do so “on reasonable conditions and terms” and the alternative “does not impose technical limits or additional costs.”
Matt Cherry, Toledo’s city council president, said the pole in front of the Groneau house was “totally inappropriate” but “we really don’t have any authority over these.
“If they had just moved it 10 feet” closer to Byrne, it would have been a lot less intrusive, Mr. Cherry said.
The city permit list identifies four companies -- none of them direct cell-service providers -- as having pulled the tower permits.
KEPS Technologies of Lansing, Mich., is the permit holder for both the Camille and Belvedere locations, and Ms. Swantack said the contractor working by her home was there on behalf of Verizon Wireless.
Christopher Serico, a Verizon spokesman, responded to an inquiry from The Blade by stating that Toledo is not yet among cities in which the company has announced 5G service. He did not respond to technical questions about site selection for their towers.
A page on Verizon’s web site explains that 5G “ultra wideband” cellular, compared with the now-common 4G service, allows more data to be transmitted faster. It supports cell-phone viewing of high-resolution movies with minimal buffering, video chat “with virtually no lag time,” and playing multi-player, console quality video games on phones.
Steven Carlson, a spokesman for competitor T-Mobile, said the higher data capacity of 5G requires high-band spectrum that “delivers massive capacity over a very small footprint using small cells typically deployed on light poles or other on-street infrastructure.”
Mr. Carlson also offered no timetable for when 5G service might arrive in Toledo but said T-Mobile is expanding the markets in which it offers 5G.
Cricket Wireless did not respond to a request for comment.
Noting that the city’s most recent small-cell permits were issued in 2018, Mr. Stephens said he doesn’t know how many 5G transmitters the industry will eventually need in Toledo.
And while Mr. Carlson said it’s possible for multiple cellular companies to use the same poles, Mr. Stephens said he does not know the degree to which they are actually doing so in Toledo.
State law forbids municipalities from requiring any sort of service-related justification for any individual pole permit.
It does allow municipalities to set reasonable standards for appearance, however, and Mr. Stephens said Toledo has done so by requiring the metal poles instead of allowing the use of wooden poles: the hollow metal allows a warren of cables to run inside them instead of being an unsightly tangle on the outside.
Ms. Swantack is unimpressed. While the workers who erected it told her she’d get used to it like any other telephone pole, she said, that hasn’t happened since its installation several years ago.
“I hate that thing,” she said.
©2020 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Never miss a story with the daily Govtech Today Newsletter.