St. Charles landmarks board opposes possible tower amid historic areas

2013-02-13T17:08:00Z 2013-03-23T14:41:14Z St. Charles landmarks board opposes possible tower amid historic areasBy Mark Schlinkmann mschlinkmann@post-dispatch.com 636-255-7233 stltoday.com

ST. CHARLES   •   St. Charles is the latest locale to experience some controversy over one of the new first-responder communications towers planned across the metro area.

The city's Landmarks Board voted 6-0 Monday night to oppose a 250-foot tower that potentially could go up on a county-owned lot at the northwest corner of Third and Adams streets.

Such a structure could be seen by residents of nearby historic neighborhoods, a city official complained. "It's not historic to have a tower in the middle of a neighborhood," said Bruce Evans, the city's community development director.

County Executive Steve Ehlmann assured the County Council, also on Monday night, that the Third and Adams location is "strictly a backup plan" if the county is unable to secure an alternative site.

"That is not our first choice" in the vicinity, he said. 

He added that if the spot did end up used for the new structure, an existing county tower nearby would be dismantled. Evans said the current one is about 200 feet high.

Ehlmann spoke after the site was criticized at the council meeting by Leann Starr, president of the Old Town Neighborhood Association.

Evans said the landmarks board will send a letter of opposition to the Federal Communications Commission and the state historic preservation office.

He said it's part of a public comment process required before a new tower can impact a historic area. Evans said, however, that the county has legal authority to build the tower without city approval.

County Councilman Michael Klinghammer, whose district includes the area, said the county is trying to find a less obtrusive site.

The structure would be among about 35 new towers across St. Charles, St. Louis and Jefferson counties as part of an upgrade expected to cost more than $120 million. Twelve of the new structures would be in St. Charles County.

Also generating some criticism have been proposed tower sites near Augusta and New Melle in southwest St. Charles County and in Wentzville, west St. Louis County, Sunset Hills, Arnold, Barnhart and Dittmer.

One goal of the new system is to eliminate dead spots in radio coverage for first responders.

The upgrade also aims to allow police, firefighters and ambulance crews from different agencies to talk directly with one another as they respond to emergencies.

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