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updated: 6/8/2014 8:52 PM

Cellular tower fight in Libertyville Township

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  • Stephanie Huffman and Todd Larak are concerned about a proposal for a 150-foot cellular tower near their houses in Libertyville Township. The proposal has been withdrawn for the time being.

       Stephanie Huffman and Todd Larak are concerned about a proposal for a 150-foot cellular tower near their houses in Libertyville Township. The proposal has been withdrawn for the time being.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Huntington Lakes resident Todd Larak points to where a cellular tower could rise near his house. The proposal has been withdrawn for now but could be refiled in December.

       Huntington Lakes resident Todd Larak points to where a cellular tower could rise near his house. The proposal has been withdrawn for now but could be refiled in December.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Stephanie Huffman says a 150-foot cellular tower is not appropriate for her Libertyville Township neighborhood. The proposal has been withdrawn but could be refiled in December.

       Stephanie Huffman says a 150-foot cellular tower is not appropriate for her Libertyville Township neighborhood. The proposal has been withdrawn but could be refiled in December.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

When Todd Larak looks out from his spacious house in northern Libertyville Township's Huntington Lakes subdivision, it's not unusual for him to see herons and other stately birds in a front-yard pond.

But Larak said the future views and his property value won't be too attractive if a 150-foot cellular tower rises a stone's throw from his home in a leafy section of far west Waukegan in the River Road corridor.

"If I came here and I pulled up and saw a cell tower there, with a Realtor, I'd say, 'Let's go on. I'm not going to look,'" Larak said.

For now, Larak won't need to fight AT&T Mobility because the company on June 5 withdrew its tower plan filed with the city of Waukegan. Still, he and other opponents fear the proposal isn't going away.

Waukegan senior planner Steve Sabourin said a city attorney found construction of the tower would violate a River Road corridor development moratorium effective until Dec. 16, which led to the plan withdrawal. He said AT&T's proposal could be resubmitted in 2015.

Huntington Lakes resident Stephanie Huffman said opponents intend to use the rest of the year to collect research and build a case on why the city should not allow the tower.

"We kind of see this (withdrawal) as a kind of reprieve, if you will," Huffman said. "We have a little more time to get our ducks in a row."

Huffman had been prepared to bring a petition with signatures from more than 200 residents who oppose the facility to a Waukegan planning and zoning commission meeting this week.

Decreased property values, health concerns and aesthetics are among the issues raised by residents at Huntington Lakes and the Nickels and Dimes, Guerin Road and Jensen Lane neighborhoods near Independence Grove Forest Preserve in Libertyville Township.

"We moved out here because it's so rural and so quiet," Huffman said. "You don't hear I-94. There's no power lines by Independence Grove. We all really chose this area for that."

If built, the 150-foot tower would be on part of 5 acres on Jensen Lane owned by Greg Sloan. He said the structure would be near a barn deep into his property.

Sloan said AT&T approached him about placing the facility on his land. He said other property owners in the neighborhood would accept the company's financial offer if he rejected it.

"I'm not trying to be a bad neighbor," he said. "This is the way technology goes."

Waukegan planners consider the tower appropriate for Sloan's property, Sabourin said. He said officials are aware of the opposition's concerns.

Chicago-based National Wireless Ventures brought the Huntington Lakes tower plan to Waukegan officials on behalf of AT&T. National Wireless representatives this year have sought new structures in several suburbs, most recently in south suburban Tinley Park.

In seeking the new towers for AT&T, National Wireless documents say that enhanced cellular coverage is needed because of subscriber growth and landline replacement driving increased demand for voice and data services. National Wireless said data use is exploding through new devices and applications ranging from social media to video streaming.

Public safety also is an issue because the Federal Communications Commission estimates 70 percent of 911 emergency calls originate from wireless devices, according to the company.

National Wireless Chief Executive Officer Bob Stapleton could not be reached for comment.

The Waukegan City Council approved the one-year River Road corridor development moratorium in December 2013 to allow for a comprehensive plan update. That move came after several residents opposed a 155-unit townhouse development near River and Route 120, just south of Gurnee.

Huffman said the neighborhoods may have more than a cellular tower to contend with next year.

"Our fear along River Road is once the moratorium expires, the push for development will start all over again," she said.

Tower: Residents worry about property value if plan goes through

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