Residents concerned about potential cell tower near Marion

Progress can be a great thing. But sometimes progress, especially when it comes to technology, can raise more concerns than help.

Several Marion County residents became upset when they learned that Verizon is planning to put a 129-foot cell phone tower up in a residential area. They grew even more concerned when the process for notifying residents of the proposal did not follow state ordinances.

According to the zoning regulations for the State of Kansas, the City of Marion Zoning Board is to hold a public hearing which they are to notify residents in a publication (official newspaper) to identify the property, and they are to give written notice of such proposed amendment mailed at least 20 days before the hearing to all owners of record of real property with the area to be altered as well as to all owners of record of real property located within at least 200 feet of the area proposed to be altered.

While one notice was placed in a local newspaper, the letters were not sent out in time for a Feb. 26 meeting. Not only was at least one letter mailed out only sixteen days before the meeting, but the letter also did not reach the resident by certified mail until March 1. This was three days after the meeting.

“I tracked my mail and discovered that it was not even sent out until February 16. The postmark says Feb 28 and I did not receive it until March 1,” said Autumn Hanson, a landowner whose property falls within the 200 feet of the proposed tower. “I do not want a cell tower this close to my home.”

The property that Verizon has the deal with for the tower belongs to James Weidenbener and is located at 505 S. Commercial in Marion. The letter sent out stated that Weidenbener and Verizon Wireless has applied for two variances for the purpose of establishing a Wireless Communications Facility. The first variance applied to “section 19-2-38 (n), permitting of a communications tower in a residential district”. The second variance applies to “section 19-2-38 (a and o), regarding the height of a communications tower”.

The letter went on to say “the Board of Zoning Appeals will hold a Public Hearing on February 26, 2019, 6:30 p.m. to review the application, hear any comments from the public and will decide to issue a variance or not.”

“I have spoken with many of my neighbors. Some of them got them sooner than me, but all of them were sent out less than the required 20 days,” said Hanson. “It is interesting to me, as well, that the other couple and my husband and I were the ones who declined to have the tower placed on our property when we were approached about it in 2016.”

Another resident who will be greatly impacted by the tower is Michelle Regnier who runs Sunshine Country Preschool.

“I was not notified about the tower since my property falls just outside of the 200 feet. But I’m not thrilled about this tower. My main concern is the safety to the health of the children who attend my facility. I have a student who has recently been diagnosed with Autism and the radio frequencies can have a greater impact on those with Autism,” said Regnier.

Regnier sights research involving the effects of cell phone towers on the health of those near it, animals or people, but most studies agree that there just isn’t enough data to determine risks due to the fact that not much time has passed since cell phones and towers have become part of everyday life.

Both Regnier and Hanson are concerned about their livelihoods in addition to their own health.

“Are parents going to want to put their children at risk in my preschool if the tower goes up? This is my 21st graduating class so I have been here a long time,” said Regnier.

Hanson has a small farm and grooms and kennels dogs on her property.

Hanson filed an appeal and several residents, including Regnier, have gathered signatures on petitions and submitted them. The appeal and petitions were turned in on March 12. None of the parties who filed have heard back from the City of Marion.

“There is supposed to be a meeting about this topic on March 23,” said Hanson. “That is all we know.”

The Free Press attempted to reach out to Verizon, the landowner, and The City of Marion with no avail as of press time. City Administrator Roger Holter is on vacation.