The Des Plaines city council Tuesday night reversed an earlier decision to deny a 100-foot cellphone tower despite opposition from neighbors who say it would lower their property values and pose health risks.
The proposal by T-Mobile calls for erecting a lattice tower at 877 Central Road on city-owned property 180 feet from the nearest homes in Cumberland Estates near Wolf and Central roads. T-Mobile began leasing the property in 2009 after a change in the zoning code.
The area is surrounded by power lines and a water tower. Originally, the city had proposed building a fourth fire station there.
Residents have fought plans for a cell tower near their homes for nearly three years, with 144 signing a petition opposing it.
Then on July 5, the city council denied T-Mobile's request.
"I was seriously disheartened to have to be here again because I thought it was resolved two weeks ago," resident Allison Ferrini said.
Des Plaines 1st Ward Alderwoman Patti Haugeberg put the cell tower issue on Tuesday's agenda hoping to get the council to reconsider the matter. "I wanted to do some additional fact finding," she said.
The vote was 4-4 to approve the tower with Haugeberg, John Robinson (2nd Ward), Dick Sayad (4th), and Mike Charewicz (8th) for it, and Matt Bogusz (3rd), Jim Brookman (5th), Mark Walsten (6th) and Dan Wilson (7th) against it. The tie was broken by Mayor Marty Moylan, advancing the ordinance to first reading.
Brookman said he felt the city had not done its due diligence on the issue.
Brookman questioned city administrators on whether they had done an independent appraisal of how the proposed cell tower would affect property values in the area, instead of relying on an appraisal conducted by T-Mobile itself.
"People are watching us and I think this is irresponsible," he said. "We have not investigated the impact on property values and I think the city has an obligation to do its own investigation."
Resident Cynthia Morgan made a case for mounting scientific studies that point to the harmful effects of cellphone technology.
"There are people here today who are concerned about safety and security," she said. "It is your duty to apply due diligence through further research and in making sure that your constituents are fully aware of the potential risks associated with wireless technologies."
Walsten said the jury is still out on whether cellphones could cause serious health problems.
"I think there is a dramatic amount of information that we do not know about cellphones," Walsten said. "They (scientists) are talking about brain cancer now."
Residents also oppose the tower because it would ruin the aesthetics of the neighborhood.
"You can't ignore the visual impact, and that's what they are doing here," Brookman said.
City officials said they plan to place their own antennas on the proposed cell tower to improve emergency communications for fire and police personnel.
"We rely on emergency communications receiver antennas," City Director of Information Technology Michael Duebner said. "The city would have better radio signal coverage with this cell tower."
The city stands to gain about $27,000 yearly from its lease with T-Mobile, generating roughly $1.4 million in revenue over 25 years. T-Mobile has a 5-year lease on the property with the option to renew every five years for 25 years.