Prairie Village council weighing options for expanded cell tower at 63rd and Mission

A photo simulation of one of the proposed designs for an expanded cell tower at 63rd and Mission.
A photo simulation of one of the proposed designs for an expanded cell tower at 63rd and Mission.

Members of the Prairie Village city council this week heard preliminary ideas for expanding the cell tower on the Consolidated Fire District No. 2 property at 63rd and Mission Road, with councilors weighing the visual impact of a larger tower on the surrounding neighborhood against the improved coverage it would provide to area residents.

Justin Anderson of Selective Site Consultants, a cell-tower consulting and construction group, was on hand at Monday’s council meeting to apprise the council of its findings on the ideal set up for the site. As currently configured, the 150-foot tower has space for six cell signal canisters, though one is unusable because of bulky equipment used by the carriers with equipment currently in the pod. At present Verizon uses the top two canisters and AT&T uses three of the remaining four.

But demand for pole space is high, with both Sprint and T-Mobile having signed agreements to co-locate signal operations on the property.

Anderson told the council that after extensive research, his company believed one of the best solutions would be to install a tower with a wider top to accommodate the signal canisters for all four of the carriers.

Councilor Jori Nelson said she wanted to make the tower as inconspicuous as possible, suggesting the group try to disguise it as a flag pole.

“This is the gateway to our city from Fairway and Mission Road, and I’d like to see something that’s more stealth.”

Anderson reminded Nelson that if the company were to incorporate the flying of an American flag into the pole design, it would require exterior lighting. Moreover, the clanging of the hardware for the flag can be very noisy.

“If you fly an American flag, you have to keep it lit at night,” Anderson said. “You would be adding light and sound to a site that had no light or sound there before.”

Other councilors asked to see renderings of designs that would disguise the pole as a tree.

But Mayor Laura Wassmer said she believed that the design as presented could be acceptable if it were painted to blend in with the sky as much as possible, and that improving cell signal in the area was an important goal.

“Our citizens are demanding better services,” she said. “They are demanding better coverage and more speed.”

Anderson and his team told the council they would take their input into consideration as they develop more formal plans for the site.

The cell companies pay rent to the fire department to have the tower located on their property.