Nextel Proposal Discussed

Nextel Proposal Discussed

Antenna system proposal at Planning Commission Sept. 29.

The Great Falls Citizens Association discussed a proposal from Nextel to install 29 modular antennas on existing utility poles along Georgetown Pike to increase cellular service in Great Falls and parts of McLean.

Nextel was scheduled to speak at the group's monthly general membership meeting on Tuesday evening before their proposal goes to the county Planning Commission on Sept. 29, said board member John Ulfelder, who is also the chair of the GFCA's planning and zoning committee.

If approved, Ulfelder said, the DAS system would be installed on existing utility poles in boxes measuring three feet wide and six feet high, placed 10 feet off the ground.

"What if every other [cellular provider] wanted to do the same thing?" asked board member Eleanor Anderson.

Ulfelder explained that the companies would have the right to install the same type of system but would need to use separate utility poles. "It's a trade-off," he said. "What would you rather have, more boxes on poles or a taller monopole?" he asked.

The antenna boxes may be more expensive for Nextel in the long run, Ulfelder said, because the antennae tend to "break down more often and require more maintenance" than traditional cellular poles.

"When companies first approached us about the monopole idea, we asked them if there was something else that didn't rise above the skyline," Ulfelder said. "Now they bring this technology to us that doesn't stick up above the skyline, and we don't like this either," he said.

"If the option is to put up one big pole or a bunch of poles, I think we should stick up one big pole and be done with it," said board member Lisa Tofil. "There's a possibility of having this thing in my front yard, and I don't want it."

ON ANOTHER MATTER, Ulfelder said he had received a letter back from the county transportation department regarding the GFCA's request for information on their decision to allow the Gulick Group to have access to Georgetown Pike while building a 13-home development on what is being called the Grovemont Property.

"The county Planning Commission has not approved their subdivision yet, but the letter said it would be better to allow access to the Pike without vacating the existing street," Ulfelder said.

Currently, Falls Pointe Court is an empty stub street off Falls Pointe Drive, but neighbors on Falls Pointe Drive have requested that the street not be used when the homes are built because it would cause too much traffic during morning and afternoon driving hours. The developers, the Gulick Group, have designed the subdivision both with and without access to Georgetown Pike and had requested the Falls Pointe Court to be vacated, allowing access only to Georgetown Pike. Ulfelder said the letter did not clarify the transportation department's position but simply restated it.

"If we appeal this decision, there is a very good possibility that there will be a group of neighbors from Great Falls who will come in and contest it," Ulfelder said. "People living on Falls Pointe Drive do not want Falls Pointe Court to be used."

"People who moved into that neighborhood knew that Falls Pointe Court existed when they moved in," said board member Estelle Holley.

The board also discussed the possibility of adopting a town or community in an area affected by Hurricane Katrina, suggested by board member Stella Koch.