Cell tower

Monday, August 12, 2013

Municipal governing bodies often find themselves in the middle of difficult situations.

A decision to help one entity may harm others. A zoning change may help bring jobs here, but hurt property values there.

Rarely are city councils given credit and thanks for making difficult decisions. Our Speak Out commentary and online chatter reflect a tone that councils always seem to make the wrong call.

The Cape Girardeau City Council was recently put in a tough position when it approved a cellphone tower that drew opposition from downtown historians who believed it would damage the historical aesthetic that so many have been trying to achieve.

Simultaneously, a legitimate business, which provides an important service -- a cellphone signal -- desired to improve that service with a stronger signal in the downtown area. Think, for instance, how important that service is at midnight at a downtown bar when someone is trying to call for a ride. Or think about how willing you would be to rent a downtown apartment if you only get one bar of service on your cellphone.

It's not that the traditionalists don't have a good point of view. But theirs was one of several points to be considered when making this decision.

The cellphone company, in this case AT&T, was a responsible neighbor when it met with several concerned citizens after hearing the opposition. The company met with those who opposed the project and made a few concessions when picking out the style of tower to build. Ultimately, the downtown folks worried about the look of their neighborhood didn't get all they wanted, but they did have a say. More importantly, they were heard.

For those who might argue the city doesn't care about the historical nature of the city aren't paying attention. From the new Broadway streetscape project to the city slogan and going all the way back to the saving of the Marquette Hotel, the city council has done many things to enhance or save the city's historical significance.

In this case, the council let the process play out, allowed passionate people to state their case, and a local business responded to concerns.

All things considered, the process played out about as good as could be expected.

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