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City Council Approves Downtown Cellphone Tower, Business Park Rezoning

Tori Bowden

The Cape Girardeau City Council gave first round approval on Monday night to a special use permit for AT&T to erect a cell phone tower on William Street near St. Mary’s Cathedral.

The 140 foot structure would improve cell phone service in downtown, but some residents and historic preservationists argued the tower wouldn’t fit in with the neighborhood.

Historian Frank Nickell helped circulate a petition and spoke against the tower in front of the council.

“It was mostly aesthetics. It was mostly the intrusion into a neighborhood that is struggling to identify itself,” Nickell said. “It has seven historic districts, 22 historic structures in that region. All of them will be dwarfed, certainly, by that tower.”

But a lawyer representing the lot’s owner presented the council with letters from downtown business people. Those business owners encouraged the council to move forward with the construction to help fill downtown’s spotty cell phone coverage. The council agreed and voted five-to-one in favor.  Loretta Schneider was the lone vote against the tower. John Voss was absent.

AT&T will paint the tower to blend in with the sky. Nickell said opponents chose to turn down an offer to disguise the tower as a flagpole by flying the Missouri flag from it.

“If you have a cell tower that tall, you would have to have a flag 30 feet by 20 feet in order to have any kind of perspective on it, to make it look normal,” Nickell said. “We thought that a gigantic flag on the top of a 14 story tower would be a little bit grotesque for this community.”

Mayor Harry Rediger said the city has met opposition to several other towers, but after they are constructed, he rarely hears about them again.

“It seemed in today’s technology and the coverage that we are expecting and demanding, our citizens and visitors are demanding, that this was the right decision,” Rediger said.

Also at Monday night’s meeting, the council gave first round approval to an ordinance that rezones much of the nascent business park at La Salle Avenue from C-1 general commercial to M-1 light manufacturing.

In a move that pleased nearby landowners, the council maintained the C-1 zoning in the southeastern corner of the business park that sits next to several residential subdivisions.

Don Hopper is the president of the Meadows of Whispering Oaks homeowners association, and he is pleased with the final compromise.

“They gave in on something to help us, and yet they are trying to maintain their investment,” Hopper said. “They’ve got dollars invested also into this project and they want to develop jobs for the community. On the other hand, we’re trying to protect our property values, which is reasonable too, because we have a big investment in our properties.”

Mayor Rediger said the business park will not attract heavy industry. Instead, he hopes to attract tech and distribution centers.

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