The Gage County Planning and Zoning Commission is recommending that a permit for a cell phone tower be denied.

The recommendation was made to the County Board of Supervisors, which will make a final decision on the special use permit.

The application from Viaero Wireless would be for a cell tower northwest of Beatrice near 103rd and Hickory roads.

Mark Harms of Viaero attended the meeting Tuesday evening to discuss the proposal.

“Viaero Wireless, approximately two years ago, received the opportunity to start providing service to southeastern Nebraska,” he said. “Since that time frame, I’ve been working in this area to try to promote and put together some cellphone infrastructure. We’ve been successful along the highway 81 corridor.”

He said the company has an agreement to add cellphone equipment at more than 20 sites, most in Nebraska but some in Colorado and Wyoming.

“Our objective is to improve our GSM wireless service in southeast Nebraska with both frequency and strength and improve our 4G network for those folks who live and work in our Gage County area,” Harms said.

The tower near Beatrice is an existing structure and cell equipment would be added to it.

However, because the land it’s on would be separated, it would no longer be grandfathered into the area and would no longer meet setback requirements, prompting the recommendation that the permit be denied.

“We’re going to use the existing tower in this location and not change anything other than probably add the cellphone equipment on it, which will probably be four microwave dishes and the antenna structure on top,” Harms said. “There won’t be anything changed as far as the tower goes. Our only proposal is to change out the building.”

The tower, which stands at just over 200 feet tall, would have setbacks of more than 400 feet, double its height. It was built in 1982, before the zoning regulations were in place.

Planning and Zoning member Terry Acton said the setback issue meant the commission had no choice but to recommend the permit be denied.

“It’s just not right because they don’t have the right setbacks,” he said. “…I’m all for helping the community with better cellphone service. I think at some point, if we let this one go, the next one is going to come and say we let Viaero go. You get yourself on a slippery slope and where are you going to draw the line?”

Reach Scott Koperski at scott.koperski@beatricedailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKoperski.

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