A number of Missionary Ridge residents are set to appear at a City Variance Board meeting on Wednesday to oppose a cell tower near the Ridge Cut.
Dwayne Smith said, "The historic viewshed at Bragg Reservation on Missionary Ridge - the site of the historic battle for Chattanooga during the Civil War - is the latest victim to be threatened by technology. Its fate will be determined Wednesday at a Special Use Permits hearing at the City Council Building at 1000 Lindsay Street at 10 a.m."
Larry Wells, president of Wireless Properties, defended the tower, saying it is essential to provide coverage in that area.
He said his firm could build a tower 180 feet high, but plans to restrict it to 150 feet.
Mr. Wells said he conferred with the National Park Service and other entities and there was no objection.
Mr. Smith said, "Wireless Properties LLC has proposed to erect a 180-foot tall celltower at 2897 East Main St. just below the Civil War memorial park. The tower, which will be capable of holding multiple wireless arrays, will extend 60 feet into the historic viewshed where Gen. Sherman marched into Chattanooga. This site is a very significant educational point of reference for historic presentations given by the National Park Service."
Anthony Hodges, a Civil War historian and past president of Friends of the Park, noted that put together a collaboration that cleared Bragg Reservation on the Ridge a few years ago and restored the historic view.
He said, “The Friends put a lot of time, funding and work into getting this accomplished. Collaboration with the city was a vital ingredient, so we believe the city will have a stake in maintaining the historic view it helped to open up.
"I believe Bragg Reservation remains the 'only' place on the Ridge where one can view the entire geography that played such an important role in the course of the American Civil War, a conflict that, in many ways, defined the nation we are today.”
Other opponents also include the Missionary Ridge Neighborhood Association that represents the community of approximately 600 historic homes.
Mr. Smith, who is director of communications for the Neighborhood Association, said, “This tower would be a detriment to our historic community and create an eyesore for the 'gateway' into Chattanooga at the Ridge Cut. Additionally, the upper portion of the tower containing the arrays would be level with approximately 40 homes.
"We are very concerned about the questionable health effects of cell towers in close proximity of our residents.”
He said other concerns expressed by the neighborhood association on its website at www.MissionaryRidge.org "include the historic concerns as well as the precedent that could be set by the approval and what it would mean for increased cell tower installations on the Ridge."
Mr. Smith also said, "While we understand the need to improve wireless infrastructure, there are alternative options that should be explored.”
He said alternative sites on Missionary Ridge include the TAWC "water towers where existing antennas are already located and safely positioned out of harms way."
Mr. Wells said, "Wireless Properties, LLC is proud of the rich cultural heritage of the Chattanooga area and goes above and beyond what is legally required in many aspects of its wireless tower operations. In the process of this much-needed tower project due to the rapid increase of traffic on Interstate 24 (an 18 percent increase in 60 months), we consulted the National Park Service, Tennessee Historical Commission, SE Tennessee Development District, various Native American tribal organizations and such.
"We did not receive any objections and were approved by the State Historical Commission.
"I was born and bred in the Chattanooga area and am an avid history buff."
He said the Ridge Cut "has historically been a known 'drop zone' since the inception of wireless in 1985.
"Interstate 24 and the Ridge Cut in particular suffer from a great deal of wrecks, congestion and recently were named the ninth most congested Interstate location in the state of Tennessee by TDOT.
"Some 70 percent of the public have wireless devices with some 12 or so percent relying solely on their wireless device alone (having cut the cord at home). This trend is increasing and is expected to continue on the upswing. No longer are wireless devices an accessory for the haves but for everyone.
"The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and subsequent chaos and lawlessness only should demonstrate the need and public necessity wireless has become in everyday life.
"While we recognize there are existing water tanks beside the proposed tower, the water tanks because of their height will not provide an end-all solution for all of the existing wireless companies and the recently licensed companies in FCC Auction 66. It is our understanding the Department of Homeland Security and other governmental agencies have concerns about access to pubic water supply facilities (ie: cell tower use/terrorist activity). This one tower can provide an end-all solution. Under federal law, the wireless carriers (if forced to do so) could end up with multiple towers to serve the public need, necessity, safety and convenience.
"Although Wireless Properties, LLC was approved for a 180-foot tower painted gray, Wireless Properties, LLC, on its own, reduced the proposed tower height to 150 feet and offered to paint the tower and all attached appurtenances a chocolate brown. There is not a light on top of the proposed tower or anywhere on the tower. We worked with the National Park Service on the northern side of the Chattanooga-Chickamauga Battlefield of Missionary Ridge and painted the tower near Gaylan Heights the same proposed color. The resulting effect was negligible from a viewshed perspective while providing service to the public which was lacking or non-existent for approximately two decades.
"Regarding potential health effects of a wireless tower, there already exist a number of wireless transmitters atop Missionary Ridge on existing towers and water tanks. The FCC and many courts have addressed the issue of potential health effects of wireless facilities. It is interesting to note the 'health effect study' on the Missionary Ridge Neighborhood Association MRNA website is some six years old and from New Zealand.
"As to affecting a viewshed and the idea that the view some 150 years post the end of the Civil War is anything similar to what it was then is hard to even fathom. The photo simulation on the Missionary Ridge Neighborhood Association MRNA website is not accurate and is misleading. The fact of the matter is Missionary Ridge is home to one of the busiest interstate corridors in the nation. Unless residents are willing to pay to move the interstate to a different locale, then the effects of the interstate go along with the neighborhood.
"Wireless communications are utilized by the majority of the citizens of our great country. Simply look back at what happened in a desperate time of need and circumstance in New Orleans when there were not communications available. Chaos and near civil war erupted. Many lives were needlessly lost and/or forever changed and affected. Or look back to that fateful day of Sept. 11, 2001, when many lives were needlessly lost due to the breakdown in communications.
"We are blessed to live in a country where personal safety is not an issue in most places. Progress and change are not always met and appreciated. But I am thankful for my warm, well-lit home with indoor plumbing. I don’t believe most people would like to regress back 150 years, live in log/mud cabins, sit in a cold outhouse and not enjoy today’s way of living.
"If you want to see the value of wireless in today’s society, just ask Mrs. Kim about a little thing called a cell phone which ultimately saved her and her two childrens' lives. The ultimate sacrifice of James Kim’s life for his family speaks volumes."