Viaero Wireless will be able to make use of a cell tower north of Beatrice after the Gage County Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit for the project this week.
The special use permit is for a cell tower northwest of Beatrice near 103rd and Hickory roads.
Mark Harms of Viaero said the project would consist of outfitting the existing tower with new equipment as part of an ongoing effort to expand coverage in southeast Nebraska.
“Two years ago, we had the opportunity to buy the spectrum and get the licensing to come into southeast Nebraska and start providing service to this area of the state,” he said. “With that, we’ve been working on putting together a tower system.”
The company has an agreement to add cellphone equipment at more than 20 sites, most in Nebraska, but some in Colorado and Wyoming.
Because the land the tower is on will be separated into different parcels, it would no longer be grandfathered into the area and would no longer meet setback requirements. This prompted the Gage County Planning and Zoning Commission to recommend that the permit be denied when the commission discussed it last month.
The tower, which stands at just over 200 feet tall, would have setbacks of more than 400 feet, or double its height. It was built in 1982, before the zoning regulations were in place.
The County Board approved the permit 5-1, with board member John Hill voting in opposition and Matt Bauman absent.
The board discussed the permitting process, and said cases like this should go before the County Variance Board for consideration.
County Board member Erich Tiemann stressed that project had been held up long enough and said current practices can hold up business.
“Nothing changes, all we’re dealing with is a slight technicality here,” Tiemann said. “If this was a new tower going in on a piece of bare ground, I think there would be more conversation here. Maybe we’d make something fit into our current regulations or even negotiate those in some.”
The permit application was submitted in August, but Tiemann said talks of the project began in January and the process has been a slow one, considering nothing but the equipment on the tower and a maintenance building would change.
Board Chairman Myron Dorn agreed, and said the permit should be approved.
“If they would not be splitting the ground, this would not even be here for a special use permit,” he said. “I don’t see any reason why… it shouldn’t be passed. I think we could save a step, which sometimes government doesn’t do.”