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University Park could be site of 70-foot Verizon tower

A walk through the neighborhood east of Grand Forks' University Park makes one thing clear: A new communication tower is going to be a tougher sell for some than others.

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Sibylle Byars and her dog head through University Park on their afternoon walk. Byars lives in the neighborhood. "If you put a cell tower in over there -- it's a residential area," she said of a potential wireless tower. "It's meant for kids to play and students to have fun." (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)

A walk through the neighborhood east of Grand Forks’ University Park makes one thing clear: A new communication tower is going to be a tougher sell for some than others.

Neighborhood resident Mike Berg says he has an open mind, but he also said the proposed site for the tower -- just north of the tennis courts -- runs right through the path he and his family have used to enter the park for decades.

“We’ve lived here over 30 years and raised our family here. I guess I would say we like the park the way it is,” Berg said. “The first thing I thought when I read the letter was, ‘Gee, can’t they put that somewhere other than University Park?”

Berg is one of a handful of people whose homes could be in the shadow of a roughly 70-foot wireless communication tower Verizon Wireless hopes to have installed before the end of the summer, pending city approval. City staff say that they’ve recommended the tower be disguised as a tree, which would add another 10 feet of height and would make it easier for some nearby residents to handle.

“As long as it’s not horrible-looking -- If they make it look like a tree, I wouldn’t have any problem,” said Christy Doyea, a homeowner near the park.


The tower is one of three up for consideration by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission at a 5:30 p.m. meeting Wednesday at Grand Forks City Hall. Besides the tower at University Park, others are slated for consideration at 3325 S. Washington St. and at the Alerus Center.

However the planning board votes, the City Council still has final say.

Deputy City Planner Ryan Brooks said the size of the cell phone towers are all different.

The proposed tower on South Washington Street is approximately 60 feet and, if similarly disguised, would reach 70 feet. At the Alerus Center, a roughly 60-foot tower would replace one of the 30- to 40-foot poles in the parking lot.

None of the towers would be built with guy wires, Brooks said.

Meagan Dorsch, a spokeswoman with Verizon Wireless, said nationwide wireless data usage is increasing at a rate of about 50 percent a year.

“How we engineer the network to meet needs is dependent on many factors -- proximity to other cell sites, topography, customer demand, local zoning requirements and more,” she wrote in an email. “We are always working to identify locations for cell sites based on where our customers need wireless coverage and capacity today and into the future.”

Park District Executive Director Bill Palmiscno said the Park Board voted unanimously in favor of a tower in University Park in November. He said a tower was recently installed at Apollo Park several years ago to replace one of the baseball diamond’s center field light poles, and that many don’t notice the difference.


The Park District would also receive $10,000 to $12,000 annually if the tower were installed, which would be useful for park projects throughout the city, Palmiscno said -- like perhaps resurfacing the nearby tennis courts. It would also coincide with the need for a light pole in the area to discourage vandalism.

“They’re kind of popping up throughout the area,” Palmiscno said. “We picked an area that’s hid away from most people, and I don’t think there’d be anybody looking at it constantly.”

Berg said he’s keeping an open mind.

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Jason Mack stands with his dog in University Park near an area where a new wireless communication tower could be going in, pending a decision from city leaders. "If they could blend it into the (park), that would be alright," he said. "Just so it won't be a big ugly thing." (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)

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