Frustration remains as Huber Heights cell tower dispute continues

The Huber Heights planning commission last year rejected the proposal for a tower behind the Huber Heights Baptist Temple, 7730 Taylorsville Road. CAROLINE REINWALD / STAFF
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The Huber Heights planning commission last year rejected the proposal for a tower behind the Huber Heights Baptist Temple, 7730 Taylorsville Road. CAROLINE REINWALD / STAFF

Council faces decision on controversial tower.

T-Mobile has adjusted plans for a new cell phone tower, but neighbors of a local church remain concerned about the congregation’s plan to lease the land for the tower’s construction.

Last year, the city’s planning commission rejected the proposal for the tower behind the Huber Heights Baptist Temple, 7730 Taylorsville Road. T-Mobile and Eco-Site Inc., the company that seeks to build the tower, then filed a lawsuit against the city in U.S. District Court in Dayton.

Magistrate Judge Michael Merz in February ordered a six-month stay “in order to continue to pursue settlement negotiations” in the case.

MORE: T-Mobile sues Huber Heights over cell tower denial

The parties have reached a tentative settlement, which has not yet been approved by Huber Heights city council.

“The next time we can take action on that is Monday,” said city Law Director Gerald McDonald. “If the council agrees, we’d proceed with the settlement. If council does not agree, it would mean that settlement is not on the table anymore and most likely the suit would proceed at that point.”

The text of the agreement says T-Mobile and Eco-Site “investigated several additional properties in the vicinity, but after several months of analysis” the companies “were unable to identify a feasible alternative.”

The tower will be 179 feet high — shorter than the originally proposed 190-foot tower, according to the draft settlement agreement. It will also be built with an alternative foundation that “will not require deep pilings in order to address resident concerns about the level of groundwater.”

MORE: Plan for T-Mobile tower on church land vexes neighbors

Carl and Leslie Liebig said the tower’s fall zone covers 40 percent of their land, which means they would not be able to build anything in that section.

“We don’t feel that it’s right that another property owner can infringe upon our property, especially in such a hazardous way,” said Leslie Liebig.

“We want our children to be able to go run around out there and have fun, and not have to worry about things falling off the tower or the tower falling onto our land,” Carl Liebig said.

McDonald said a telecom tower is designed to collapse on itself.

Still, the Liebigs and other neighbors also said they fear property values and aesthetics will suffer.

In a statement, the Huber Heights Baptist Temple said its pastor and members were not “consulted regarding the location of the tower on its property during the negotiation period” and the church “does not have the authority to change anything agreed upon” by the parties.

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Pastor Charles Zimmerman said the city “wouldn’t let” the church move the site of the tower, something City Manager Rob Schommer disputed.

“He declined to meet with the neighbors, and he also indicated he was not interested in moving (the tower) to the center of the lot,” Schommer said of the pastor.

Eco-Site and T-Mobile told Huber Heights they are not interested in moving the tower site, McDonald said.

An attorney for the plaintiffs said he was not authorized to comment for this story.

T-Mobile said last year the denial by the city’s planning commission, without providing reasons as required by law, prohibits the carrier from providing service nearby.

“Specifically, the existing service gap includes large residential areas, commercial areas, churches, a fire station, and more than a mile of Interstate 70,” T-Mobile’s lawyers stated in the lawsuit.

News Center 7’s Caroline Reinwald contributed reporting.

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