Vote for new Verizon 5G tower fails at City Council

By Caleb Wortz

A motion to approve the installation of a new Verizon 5G tower at 49th W. Ave failed to pass at the Monday, March 18th Sapulpa City Council meeting. The final vote was 6-4 with the four “no” votes coming from councilmembers David Mortazavi, Hugo Naifeh, Marty Cummins, and Vice Mayor Carla Gunn. The motion to approve the tower needed 7 “yes” votes.

City Council abstained from voting on the tower earlier this month due to public health and property value concerns. Due to the extensive public comment at the last meeting, Mayor Craig Henderson limited Monday’s to three commenters who each had two minutes. 

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Verizon representative Andy Rotenstreich spoke to the council and gave his argument, which centers around the tower adhering to existing city ordinances. He also presented a study Verizon conducted through an MAI-certified appraiser, which they argue shows no negative value due to cell towers. This study involved a tower in Sapulpa, three in Broken Arrow, and three in Jenks. 

“Federal law does give local jurisdictions some latitude to regulate cell towers and you do through your ordinance,” said Rotenstreich. “That’s the mechanism and we meet your ordinance, city staff says we meet your ordinance, the plan says we meet your ordinance and the surveyors and technical information say we meet the setbacks.” 

A chance for public comment began after Rotenstreichs presentation with one commenter presenting information on cell tower property value impact from the Department of Economics and Finance in Southern Alabama. Ashlyn Glenn, the granddaughter of a homeowner near the proposed tower, argued that the study shows declining home values due to wireless towers.

“I’ve pulled all the compositions of the homes in that area and how much their price would be affected comparable with the cell tower and without the cell tower and it’s pretty significant,” said Glenn. “I did 10% because it said anywhere from 10 to 13 but with something this big it will definitely have a large impact.” 

She explained that she used the data from Alabama to do calculations on the exact effect the proposed tower could have on surrounding home values. She said the Alabama study showed causation between a cell tower within 0.2 kilometers (2362 ft) and lowering home values anywhere from 3% to 13%. 

City attorney David Widdoes also presented information in response to concerns our existing ordinance was not being updated or was not as protective as surrounding cities. His department did a study that showed that Sapulpa has the same or comparable requirements to Bixby, Broken Arrow, Sand Springs and Tulsa. 

Verizon has applied for a special exception and will be presenting their case at the Board of Adjustment on Tuesday, March 26th at 11:00 am.

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