Commission OKs new cellphone tower in northern Ascension

The Ascension Parish Zoning Commission granted approval Wednesday for a new 158-foot cellphone tower along Airline Highway in the northern end of the parish.

The approval came with a variance for the tower’s height — 10 feet higher than setbacks allowed based on neighboring buildings — and under conditional use allowed in the site’s mixed use zoning.

The monopole tower, which would be 150 feet high but have an 8-foot-long lightning rod on top, would be installed along the east side of Airline between Bayou Manchac and Old Perkins Road behind the South Pointe Plaza Shopping Center, maps show.

Tower owner TowerCom IV, of Jacksonville, Fla., filed a request for a 148-foot pole and lightning rod that met the setback requirements, but a company representative told the commission Wednesday TowerCom would prefer the additional 10 feet.

“No. 1, it gives AT&T better coverage from the same location, and No. 2, it allows more carriers to get on the same tower,” said attorney Andy Rotenstreich, who represents TowerCom IV and initial tenant AT&T.

The extra 10 feet would allow the tower to hold two more carriers, boosting its capacity from three of them to five.

But under questioning from Commission Chairman Donald Songy, Rotenstreich said the higher tower would encroach on the top of a nearby mini-storage building by about 5 to 10 feet.

Rotenstreich said the setback requires spacing equivalent to 100 percent of the height of the tower, plus 30 additional feet, to prevent a tower from toppling onto nearby buildings.

He added the tower does not fall over like a tree but breaks at a “stress point” higher up from the base. He explained that the top part of the tower, once broken, then hangs down from the stress point and falls to the ground.

“The base of the pole does not fall over. It’s the stress point. So even with the setback and even if, God forbid, something were to happen, this tower would not fall on the mini-storage,” Rotenstreich said.

No one from the public spoke to the commission about the project.

Rotenstreich noted earlier in the meeting that AT&T has a capacity issue in the area and was unable to find existing structures to place the cellphone antenna.

He said the site is screened by woods on two sides, as well as the mini-storage building, and would have fencing and landscaping.

Zoning staff backed the requests. The commission approved the tower without opposition.

Commissioner Morrie Bishop was absent.