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Unity zoning board OKs cellphone tower project

| Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 11:36 p.m.

Unity's zoning hearing board on Tuesday approved a special exception to allow the construction and installation of a cellphone antenna on a 185-foot tower off Lewis Road.

The antenna and an equipment building would sit inside a 98-foot by 98-foot fenced-off area on the 18-acre property of Vince and Patricia Quatrini.

The tower meets all Federal Communications Commission and Federal Aviation Administration requirements, said attorney Jim Roberts, representing telephone company Cingular and the Quatrinis.

The tower, sitting at a 1,374-foot elevation, could improve cellphone reception on areas of Lewis Road, Route 30 and parts of Twin Lakes Park in Hempfield, said Joseph Spiecha, a radio frequency engineer with AT&T, which owns Cingular.

“That area was identified as an area of substandard service,” he said. “I wouldn't want to pay for our service right there. It's poor.”

The pole, similar to a galvanized steel telephone pole, will house 12 directional antennas that are 4 feet high on the top of the tower, plus a 5-foot-tall lightning rod, Spiecha said.

It is designed to bend in extremely high winds or weather, rather than topple over, and no guidelines are necessary, Roberts said.

“These towers are not designed to fall like trees … they bend; they're designed to bend,” he said.

An access road would be cut through the wooded property, zoned R1 rural residential, to accommodate the site, with the removal of a few trees, Roberts said.

Because the height is less than 200 feet, no lights are required, but a 135-foot setback from any property lines is required in case of any damage.

Spiecha said the height is necessary to provide the best coverage while not interfering with other nearby, higher towers.

An application form is recommended through the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport with the Federal Aviation Administration, but not required, said Harry Hosack, township zoning officer, who said the tower met all requirements.

The electromagnetic radiation is 0.02 percent of the permissible limit by the Federal Communications Commission, Roberts said.

Space at the top of the tower will be available if other cellphone companies wish to enter leases to improve their service, Spiecha said.

Board member Dorothy Zello asked how the company determines when there is enough cellphone coverage, referring to a map presented by Spiecha.

“Eventually, you'll keep coming back to us and these red marks (of poor coverage) will be gone, but we'll have an antenna every two miles down the road,” she said.

Antennas on the roof of the Latimer Family Library at St. Vincent College were approved in May, and only one other site is being considered — near Route 130 and Marguerite Lake Road, Spiecha said.

John Gatto of 1249 Maywood Lane said he was concerned about the amount of radiation, living near the tower.

“I urge the board to look at the health concerns.There are numerous studies,” he said.

Board member Jackie Nindel said the elevation difference and distance from the antenna should be far enough that he should not be concerned.

“You're going to be about as far as you can get away from it,” she said.

Spiecha said the American Cancer Society has reported no correlation between cellphone radiation and cancer.

The board approved the tower subject to compliance with township requirements for storm-water management.

In other business, Hosack said 10 residents submitted an application opposing the June decision of the zoning hearing board to allow an independent living group home at 431 Saxman Road operated by Adelphoi Village.

The residents have the option to appeal the decision to the Court of Common Pleas, he said.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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