Relief Nursery Worries Over Cell Phone Tower

The Relief Nursery’s Springfield location gives aid to at-risk children and families with a multitude of challenges, according to Executive Director Kelly Sutherland. But Sutherland and others at the Relief Nursery are worried that a proposed Verizon cell phone tower might pose a danger to the children and families who come there for the therapeutic nursery school and other classes the Relief Nursery offers.

The Springfield City Council will discuss the proposed Verizon cell tower at a July 6 meeting.

Sutherland points out that if you stand at the location of the proposed tower, “the first thing you see is a playground where there are children.”

Unlike the AT&T cell tower controversy in a residential neighborhood in Eugene’s south hills involving a tower on the Crossfire Ministries Church property, the Relief Nursery is not worried about danger in relation to the tower’s electrical emissions, nor is it worried that the tower, which would be disguised as a fake tree, would be an eyesore. Rather, the Relief Nursery is concerned over the dangers posed if the 85-foot tower or the 45-foot structure surrounding it were to fall.

In a residential zone, Sutherland says, there is a setback equal to the height of the facility in order to ensure public safety. The area where the Springfield Relief Nursery is located, however, is zoned as community commercial without that requirement. The location for the proposed cell tower is only 21 feet from the Relief Nursery’s property line.

The Relief Nursery has two playgrounds and classrooms on the property, and board member Jennifer Ulum says she thinks the Relief Nursery should be treated as a school.

Sutherland says the Relief Nursery has not yet reached the owner of the property where the cell tower is to be located, but has talked to Smartlink, which is working on siting the tower for Verizon.

Sutherland says the city has embraced the Relief Nursery’s efforts to be in Springfield and helped the organization at every turn, realizing the value of the help that the Relief Nursery provides. She says if the City Council approves the tower’s location 21 feet from the property line and two playgrounds, “it would be really at odds with the investment the city has made.”

She adds that the Relief Nursery is “very grateful” the City Council “has elevated this to their purview so we can voice our concerns.”

Sutherland says the Relief Nursery is also worried about an access road that would accompany the tower, which runs next to a path children and parents use to get to the Relief Nursery as well as to nearby Mt. Vernon Elementary School.

Springfield City Planner Andy Limbird says that the City Council “could require the tower to be redesigned or relocated but it would need to be for substantive reasons, such as addressing a specific, valid concern raised at the public hearing.”

Limbird says regarding concerns about not only the tower but about a diesel-fired backup generator, the tower would be about 60 feet from the outdoor children’s activity areas along the south boundary of the Relief Nursery site. He says that because of the setback for residentially zoned properties, “the proposed cell tower could not be placed any closer than 90 feet from the west property line because it abuts residentially zoned land.”

He adds that the city’s “development code speaks to requiring a setback for the tower for ‘safety reasons,’ but doesn’t elaborate on exactly what that means.”

Sutherland says the Relief Nursery is not trying to impede the property owner’s rights or to cause contention with the city of Springfield, but rather she would like them to pause and consider the possible implications and the impact of the tower’s location and look into possible alternative locations on the property.

The Springfield City Council will discuss the proposed tower 5:30 pm Monday, July 6, at Springfield City Hall, 225 Fifth Street.