Site Preparations Start For Controversial Missionary Ridge Cell Tower

Wednesday, May 09, 2007 - by Betsy Bramlett
Site work has started for controversial cell tower
Site work has started for controversial cell tower
- photo by Betsy Bramlett

Green light or not, site preparation is beginning on the side of Missionary Ridge where a controversial cell tower is proposed at 2897 East Main St. Fencing is erected, signs posted and earth movers have started clearing a path up to the woods where the tower would be located.

"We're doing a few things out there," said Matt Bates, senior vice president of development and operations for Wireless Properties, LLC. "We feel pretty strongly that we've done everything correctly and legally. We're planning on building a tower."

At the same time, Wireless President Larry Wells says his attorneys are preparing to file a lawsuit for libel against the Missionary Ridge Neighborhood Association, which has been vocal in its opposition.

"It's not good to file documents and not tell the truth. When you cause damage to a person's career, there's a price to pay. I'm not going to sit by and let them destroy what has taken me decades to build," he said.

"They'd better start buying Georgia or Tennessee lottery tickets, because they're going to need the money."

Neither Wireless nor MRNA would supply the document he referred to.

The Federal Communications Commission has not yet approved the tower; however, its staff recommended upholding an initial decision by the Tennessee Historical Commission, thus rejecting a later change of mind that came after a THC staff member took a second look and determined that the tower could have a detrimental impact on the viewshed of Bragg Reservation, a noted Civil War site in Chattanooga, and Missionary Ridge, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In addition to MRNA, the project has drawn opposition from the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Friends of the Park, Cornerstones and individuals who say that the tower would detract from the historical perspective that visitors can gain in looking out from Bragg over the city of Chattanooga and diminish property values of Missionary Ridge residents.

The reservation and its distinctive monuments commemorate the site of a battle which is considered a defining moment in the Civil War, when Union forces stormed the Ridge from the western slope, forced the retreat of the Confederate forces and paved the way for General Sherman's famous "March to the Sea."

Wireless Properties argues that there's a double standard being placed.

"Why aren't they opposing the construction of the condominium development up at Bragg, which will definitely obscure the viewshed to the east?" Mr. Bates asked.

He raised that question in consideration of the direction in which the Confederates retreated and Union armies took. It was a point that Jim Ogden, historian of the Park, did not dispute.

FCC officials say it's "still in the information-gathering process," but they had encouraged Wireless and the Park to try to work something out. Well, apparently it hasn't worked out, because they aren't speaking to each other at this time.

While not having a face-to-face meeting, the two parties exchanged letters, and according to Mr. Bates, his company offered some concessions. While citing "confidentiality" on some issues, Mr. Wells said that one possibility would be to further lower the height of the tower.

"But we haven't heard back with a yes, no or maybe on anything," Mr. Bates said.

Shawn Benge, superintendent of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, said there's a reason for that.

"We've gone to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to see if the case can be re-opened."

Much to the delight of cell tower opponents, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker have written letters in support of having the FCC look back into the case and determine whether procedural errors occurred during the federally mandated FCC Section 106 review of Wireless Properties' application.

The ACHP is the primary federal policy advisor to the President, Congress and heads of other federal agencies regarding historic preservation issues.

"If the FCC determines that 106 hadn't been vetted, that would bring more parties to have a seat at the table," Supt. Benge said, referring to Friends of the Park, MRNA and Cornerstones.

One issue that opponents are banking on is that the agency will be sympathetic that the Park Service was in disarray without a permanent Park superintendent at the time of the application process and that the Missionary Ridge Neighborhood Association had not been informed.

"We did what we were required to do," Mr. Bates said. "We filled out all of the necessary forms. We haven't pulled anything over anyone's head."

He said that Wireless Properties actually originally planned to build a 180-foot tower but that the company decided to reduce the height by 30 feet "before they (opponents) even got going."

He said Wireless has always been sensitive to historic properties and has worked in concert with Mr. Ogden on several occasions, including a cell tower site at Chickamauga Battlefield.

"We're trying to be the least obtrusive or invasive and have the best place to put the tower."

He said trial balloons floated in January to show the location and height of the tower was not an accurate demonstration. He said they couldn't get the first balloon inside the trees to duplicate the actual height, because of the density of the trees. The second balloon was located in the middle of the lot and was not indicative of the actual sight line.

"I understand how people reacted negatively when they saw it, but we knew we'd be building it back in the trees. We just couldn't show how it would really be."

Workers at the Main Street site
Workers at the Main Street site
- Photo2 by Betsy Bramlett

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report - And Mug Shots

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: CARR, ROBERT JONATHAN     6502 JOYFUL DR HIXSON, 37343     18     Hamilton County          POSSESSION OF DRUG PARAPHERNALIA CHAIJ, JONATHAN BRANDON     1950 WATERBURY LANE CHATTANOOGA, 37421     23 ... (click for more)

Funeral Is Wednesday For Meigs County Woman, 41, Killed In Wreck

Funeral services will be Wednesday for a 41-year-old Meigs County woman who was killed Friday afternoon when another vehicle ran into her car on Highway 58 in Meigs County. Troopers said Klaresha Crass swerved her GMC truck into oncoming traffic to avoid a car waiting to turn left. She hit the Chevrolet occupied by the family of Tammy Renee England Whitted, of Decatur, head-on. ... (click for more)

Decimating The Chattanooga Public Library

Corinne Hill claims that the library is just undergoing a normal weeding process for eliminating books.  She has bragged that she's responsible for the elimination of over 100,000 books - with more to go. "Normal" weeding is not rampant throwing away.  Yes, books go to the Friends for their sale - where they get $2 for a $75 book and thousands wind up being recycled ... (click for more)

The Many Lessons I Learned From Helen McDonald Exum

Helen McDonald Exum was my friend and mentor. As I think of her passing I can only imagine the celebration that is happening in heaven as the news of her arrival is being told. I am sure that there is a party that not only has she organized but that there is not a detail that has been left to chance. I am sure that it is the grandest of events, for you see, she has been planing ... (click for more)

Worley-Powered Vols Clobber Utah State, 38-7, In Opener

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee, trying to snap out of the doldrums of four consecutive losing seasons, started its 2014 campaign in fine fashion Sunday night before a season opening sellout crowd of 102,445 that endured a heavy rain story 30 minutes prior to kickoff. And senior quarterback Justin Worley, who missed the final four games in 2013 after undergoing thumb surgery, was ... (click for more)

Lookouts Reach Southern League Northern Division Playoffs With Doubleheader Win Over Smokies

The Chattanooga Lookouts are now playoff bound after sweeping a double-header against the Tennessee Smokies  to clinch the Southern League North Division for the second half of the season. The first game of the double-header was backed by a masterful gem of a game thrown by the starter for the Lookouts, Steve Smith (W, 3-2). Smith dominated the Smokies' lineup from top ... (click for more)