A crowd of residents vehemently spoke out on Monday against rezoning a residential area on Pearl Road to make way for a new cell tower during a Chardon Township Board of Zoning Appeals meeting.

After hearing from engineers, AT&T and residents during the public hearing, the board denied the rezoning request from GPD Group Engineer Mike Beddow.

“We are proposing to put a tower on Pearl Road to provide coverage in our area,” Mr. Beddow explained. “There is a gap in our coverage there. There are a number of towers currently in the township. A few to the west, northwest, a few to the north on the other side of the township line. Those towers have AT&T antennas that are not providing coverage.”

But residents said during the two-hour hearing that the tower could disrupt nature and negatively impact their property values.

“When we decided to purchase our home some 20 years ago, we had certain criteria,” Pearl Road resident Leonardo Bosnar testified. “My wife suggested Chardon as a shopping point; we fell in love and bought the property.”

He told the board that he hoped they would vote not to tarnish the view from his property, where his family constructed a half-mile trail through the woods.

The zoning board previously met to discuss the 195-foot spire on March 5, originally intending to schedule a follow-up meeting so that an AT&T representative could attend. But it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.

Jim Kovitch, a field engineer with AT&T, was present at the Monday meeting along with Ed Block, a project manager with GPD Group, the contractors who would have built the tower.

Attendees gathered in the parking lot behind the Chester Township Office where groups of chairs stood 6-feet apart to accommodate the 20-some members of the public who came out to watch and speak.

During the meeting, board member Terry Dorsett asked Mr. Beddow what alternate locations and alternate technology they had considered. Mr. Beddow said that they looked at the American Tower Corp.’s tower, the only one in the township that doesn’t currently have an AT&T antenna. A signal there wouldn’t help bring coverage to the dead zone, he said.

“It isn’t ideal for us to be on more towers than necessary,” he said.

Board member Robert Choate told Mr. Beddow that the letter he had submitted doesn’t qualify as a study from a licensed engineer and fails to address all the necessary issues.

Mr. Dorsett explained that the visual factor was the residents’ major concern, with the finished tower being nearly double the height of any of the surrounding trees, and indeed many of the community members brought mocked up images of how the tower would look from their yards once it’s finished.

Residents raised other points. James Schumann of Robinson Road adjacent to Pearl, presented a letter from Geauga Park District Director John Oros, stating that a new tower could interrupt the natural habitats of songbirds that nest in the area during the summer.

After two hours of testimony from residents and the representatives from GPD and AT&T, Mr. Dorsett called the matter to a vote.

“Enjoyment of your land, your homes, your environment, your concern is that will be compromised. The value of your resale will be compromised. I’m also hearing that a lot of land around here that’s not getting coverage is parkland that’s not populated. It’s not like we’re in the city, we’re in a very lightly-populated area,” Mr. Dorsett said

Mr. Choate made a motion to accept the variance and rezone the land as industrial so that the cell tower could be built. All of the board members voted no.

“It is not zoned for cell phone towers,” Mr. Choate concluded.

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