By Teri Carnicelli
The Assistance League of Phoenix (ALP), which has served children and families in the greater Phoenix community for more than 50 years, is suddenly facing some negative backlash from its residential and commercial neighbors.
That’s because ALP has entered into an agreement with telecommunications provider Verizon to allow the company to erect a 65-foot “monopalm” on its property, located at 7038 N. 7th St. ALP has owned the commercial property for 50 years and currently operates its thrift store there, which also includes a large parking lot to the south of the two-story building.
A monopalm is a wireless communications tower disguised to look like a palm tree.A monopalm is a wireless communications tower disguised to look like a palm tree. Verizon also wants to build ground equipment adjacent to the monopalm that would be housed in a 16-foot by 37-foot area, screened by an 8-foot-tall block wall. The monopalm and ground equipment area would be at the far southeast end of the ALP parking lot and would take up approximately three parking spaces. Verizon would enter into a long-term lease agreement with ALP for the property it would use.
Also to the south is the single-story Hissy Fits children’s consignment store, which is in a building set back from 7th Street with limited parking in the front. The owner of that property, Marco Balzano, says the cell tower and supporting structure would block visibility for his tenants’ business and would be an “eyesore for the neighborhood.”
Balzano, along with more than a half-dozen residents from the neighborhood to the west of the property, spoke in opposition to Verizon’s request for a use permit for the structure at a Phoenix Zoning Adjustment hearing on Aug. 21. Verizon needs the use permit because the tower is 113 feet from a resident area, and the zoning ordinance requires that it be a minimum of 150 feet away.
Also speaking in opposition was a representative of the North Central Phoenix Homeowners Association (NCPHA). “The NCPHA is constantly opposing commercial creep and inappropriate deviations from zoning that affect property values and quality of life,” said Mary Crozier, president of the NCPHA. “The NCPHA strongly objects to this use permit and we believe the granting of permits like this will continue to place other wireless communications facilities within our residential area.”
This is not the first time NCPHA has opposed a wireless tower in the community. It went up against AT&T in 2012 when the communications company wanted to build a large “bell tower” structure on the property of Crossroads United Methodist Church. The bell tower, also at 65 feet, is used to disguise the wireless communications tower and ground equipment. In the end, AT&T prevailed.
Several residents living on Glenn Drive, a cul-de-sac of older homes just west of the ALP property, expressed their concerns at the hearing that the “ugly” tower would be visible from their yards and, for some, even their windows.
Aimee Runyon, executive director of the Assistance League of Phoenix, says that ultimately the tower will have to go in somewhere, because Verizon has identified a need for better coverage in the area, and there are a limited number of commercial properties large enough to house the structure.
“If it has to go in, why not have it on the property of a nonprofit organization that has been here in the Valley for more than 50 years and that will re-invest those funds into the community?” Runyon says. “With this lease arrangement [with Verizon], 1,500 kids will get a brand-new pair of shoes every year for the next 15 years because of the residual income we will receive.”
Runyon adds that “we want to be good neighbors since we, too, are part of the North Central community. We hope we can work with the neighbors to come up with a solution that works for us and for them.”
The Zoning Adjustment hearing on Verizon’s use permit request has been continued to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25 in Assembly Room C, Phoenix City Hall, 200 W. Washington St., First Floor.
Verizon will host a community information meeting prior to the hearing. The date had not been set as of press time.
Those who wish to comment on this zoning application can e-mail their comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Refer to the case # ZA-317-14 and the hearing date (9/25/14) in your e-mail, and provide your full name and address.