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Shaler residents concerned about proposed cell tower camouflaged to look like tree

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 9:02 p.m.
Bethany Hofstetter | Trib Total Media
FMHC Corporation is proposing to construct an AT&T monopine cell tower, which would resemble a tree, on the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery property on Regina Street, in Shaler Township. The proposed cell tower is similar to the cell tower in Fox Chapel pictured on the property shared by the Fox Chapel Country Day School and Christ Church Fox Chapel off of Squaw Run Road East.
Bethany Hofstetter | Trib Total Media
FMHC Corporation is proposing to construct an AT&T monopine cell tower, which would resemble a tree, on the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery property on Regina Street, in Shaler Township. The proposed cell tower is similar to the cell tower in Fox Chapel pictured on the property shared by the Fox Chapel Country Day School and Christ Church Fox Chapel off of Squaw Run Road East as seen from Shady Side Academy’s Michael J. Farrell Stadium.

Some Shaler Township residents are upset about a proposal to erect a communication tower near their homes.

FMHC Corp., a Chicago-based company that provides consulting and construction services to wireless-communications companies, is proposing the construction of a 125-foot stealth monopole communication tower for AT&T Inc. on property owned by Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, off of Regina Street.

The communication tower would resemble a tree, with brown base with a green, tree-like structure at the top and be surrounded by a 65-foot-by-65-foot fenced in area with landscaping, said Jim Prokopiak, a representative for FMHC Corp., during the Aug. 18 township planning commission meeting.

“AT&T is in the process of a project called ‘densification,'” Prokopiak said. “This is designed to fill in a gap in coverage ... at the lowest height to fill this gap in coverage.”

The structure would be designed to carry three to five other carriers and is similar to the communication towers in Fox Chapel, Prokopiak said.

There are three similarly designed communication towers in the 8.5 square miles of Fox Chapel, according to Gary Koehler, borough manager.

The borough ordinance requires all communications towers be “stealth towers” or camouflaged in some way, such as to look like a tree or concealed in a church steeple.

However, James Carragher of Westwood Avenue said he opposes the communication tower in Shaler.

“I've seen the tower in Fox Chapel and one in North Park, and it sticks out like a sore thumb,” Carragher said. “It sticks out above every tree in the area, and it's an eyesore.”

Bernie Zlobecki of Westwood Avenue said he likes his neighborhood because it is like a “wildlife reserve.”

“We don't want to see it disturb the area,” Zlobecki said about the proposed tower. “This eyesore, I feel it will hurt property value … and the jury's still out on microwaves.

The planning commission members said they would like more information on the proposed communication tower, including a radio-frequency emissions analysis, structural analysis of the tower and an analysis of the electrical power required to run the facility.

“There is a lot of information requested, so I think we need time to get that … and review it,” said David Piekarski, chairman of the planning commission, before the planning commission tabled the conditional-use request.

The planning commission will review the proposal and additional information at its next meeting at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 15 at the municipal building, 300 Wetzel Road.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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