Here’s the church, and here’s the steeple
The neighborhood at Wyoming Court consists of pastel-colored homes and long-armed trees with a background of snow-capped mountains. A few light poles and basketball hoops promise late-night games, and a small, rustic playground waits for children to hurtle through it. At the end of the cul-de-sac, a small red-brick church adds to the homey atmosphere with a sign reading “Positive Spirituality. Change your thinking, change your life.”
But a prospective newcomer is trying to make its home in this quaint northwest neighborhood—a 50-foot-tall cellular tower designed to look like a steeple. And many neighbors are saying they don’t want it in their vista.
The Root family is among them. Their grassy front yard has a few first-spring flowers, plastic army men strewn about and a red Radio Flyer wagon awaiting its next run. The Roots have made this peaceful neighborhood their home for 13 and a half years. They think the atmosphere might be disrupted if the proposed Cingular cellular tower is made part of the Unity Ministry church at the end of their street.
“It’s metal, it’s steel, it’s big, it’s ugly, and we thought, ‘Oh my God,’ ” Jennifer Root exclaimed after seeing an artist’s rendition of the proposal and a steeple/cellular tower at the Lutheran church on Pyramid Highway. “It looks like a suppository, tampon or a man’s penis. Take your pick.”
But it’s not just the aesthetics that have led to a six-month battle the Roots and other neighbors have conducted against the proposed tower. Many residents also believe Cingular could put its tower in a less residential neighborhood and still provide good service.
“Other cellular companies have service in our neighborhood without towers in our backyard, so we know Cingular could do something different,” Jennifer Root said.
Root also warns that if the tower is built, it will set a planning standard for future cellular towers.
“If this particular tower goes in, it will set a precedent,” she said. “Anyone can use this case in the future, and the Planning Commission’s hands will be tied.”
The Eutsler family lives on Crown Street in a green house with a matching fence at a slightly lower level than the church. Their backyard view is the church’s grass and desert landscaping in the area where the proposed cellular tower would go. Candi Eutsler thinks the new view won’t be much appreciated by prospective buyers.
“It’s not only the eyesore,” Eutsler said. “I don’t plan on living here for forever, and I don’t want people looking at the house saying, ‘That’s not very attractive.’”
The Littles live at one of the homes closest to the church. A 1963 red Chevy glistens in the driveway, and a small wooden fence marks one side of the front yard. Like many others in the neighborhood, Cliff Little is using his Saturday morning to indulge his need for sunshine and his wife’s need for clean windows. His smile stretches when he says that his neighborhood of eight years has been the most peaceful and friendliest he has ever lived in, but the grin droops when he discusses the proposed cellular tower and its 10-foot encompassing wall.
“I think they’re putting in a big blister with a real good billboard for graffiti,” Little said.
Little is also concerned about the distance between his property and the proposed tower site. According to a city ordinance, a cellular tower must have a four-to-one setback ratio, meaning a 50-foot cellular tower has to be 200 feet away from the closest residential property. Little’s property line measures 150 feet away from the proposed site, but a new state law reportedly gives city Planning Manager Fred Turnier the discretion to change the distance restrictions to a foot and a half setback for every foot in height. He says he is not the sole arbiter, and he submits a recommendation to the city council. The possibility of a distance restriction of only 75 feet from homes has caused Little and other residents to be concerned.
“These rules were put here for a reason,” Little said.
Cingular Wireless said the church was the best site they found in the area.
“The Unity Church location was one of several sites considered to provide service to the Reno community, including two other church locations and other locations northeast and west of the final site,” said Lauren Garner, the regional manager of Cingular’s public relations. “It was the only site that would allow Cingular to provide quality wireless service to our customers.”
Many in opposition to the tower have walked door to door in the neighborhood, distributing information about the proposal. They have also attended Planning Commission meetings regarding the issue, sent letters to the city’s Planning Department and held a public protest by floating red balloons 50 feet high to simulate the height of the proposed tower.
Church President Scott Johnson says he isn’t doing it for the money (about $12,000 a year) but agreed to the tower after two other churches in the area were contacted and turned down the offer. As far as interaction with the neighbors, Johnson says it’s a rocky time.
“The neighbors told me if I wanted to set up a meeting between them and Cingular, I’d have to go door to door talking to residents,” Johnson said. “It’s not in my best interest to go door to door looking for opposition against something I support.”
Not all neighbors think the cellular tower will disrupt the community. One resident who lives across the street from the church thinks the neighborhood is overreacting.
“It doesn’t bother me,” she said. “It’s going up whether we dispute it or not. I don’t know why the neighbors are getting all frustrated over nothing.”