CVB, Residents Come Out In Favor Of Cell Tower Project

UPDATE 11:50 p.m.: After appearing before the Yankton County Planning Commission three times, a conditional-use permit (CUP) for a Velocitel/AT&T cell tower to the northwest of Yankton was denied.

After nearly 2 1/2 hours of deliberation on the matter during its regular meeting Tuesday, the board voted to deny the CUP based on insufficient access to the site. 

More will follow in Thursday’s Press & Dakotan.

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A controversial cell tower project in the Lewis & Clark area has some community backing.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Yankton County Planning Commission, a conditional-use permit request from Velocitel/AT&T was once again up for the board’s consideration.

A lawyer representing AT&T told the commission it would be hard for them to legally deny the application.

“This county’s own consultant found and I know the commission has heard this, but I’m going to state it again — it would be hard to defend the denial of the conditional-use permit in this instance,” he said.

According to Development Services Director Gary Vetter, the proposed tower is 199 feet tall and located in the 300 block of Wildflower Rd. near 310th St. just to the north of Lewis & Clark Lake.

Tuesday marked the third straight meeting the Velocitel conditional-use permit was before the Planning Commission. In August, it was tabled in order to allow questions on access to the site to be answered. During the September meeting, the CUP was again tabled to allow more time to answer questions on site access as well as to allow AT&T to look at alternative sites for the tower. Comments at both meetings were overwhelmingly opposed to the proposal.

Though many comments have been made in opposition over the past two meetings, there was some favorable feedback included in the Planning Commission’s packet.

In an email dated Oct. 5, District Park Supervisor Shane Bertsch spoke favorably of the proposed tower, saying it would improve the park experience and provide additional safety.

“Lewis & Clark Recreation Area supports the installation of the FirstNet Tower located north of Highway 52,” Bertsch wrote. “There is a need for improved cell phone connectivity throughout the campground, especially west of the Gavins section of the park. The improved coverage will enhance our park visitors experience, allow them to work remotely and will allow them to call first responders in case of an emergency.”

The proposal also has the backing of the Yankton Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

In a submission dated Oct. 6, CVB director Kasi Haberman said the tower would be a boon to the area.

“The installation of this tower will improve the connectivity for nearly 2 million visitors who travel to Yankton each year to experience the outdoor recreation that Lewis & Clark Lake offers,” she wrote.  

She added that it’s best to give first-time visitors a positive view of the area.

“It is imperative that our visitors’ first experience in Yankton does not showcase its lack of quality cell phone connectivity, indicating that Yankton is not keeping up with today’s technology. Rather, the connectivity in the lake area should surpass today’s expectations, proving that Yankton is on the cutting edge of technology and that we truly care about our visitor’s experiences and safety.”

Area residents have also submitted statements favoring moving forward with the project.

In an Oct. 5 email, local resident Kelly Kneifl said that connectivity is increasingly needed for everyday life.

“As you likely are already aware, the cellular and broadband internet services in the lake area are often poor at best,” he said. “As technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate, consumers increase their dependency upon technology for many of their daily tasks, including using the phone, watching TV, business needs, education, communication, research, the constant stream of transactions that occur every minute of every day from simple systems such as paying your electric bill online,” he wrote.

He added that the commission must act in the name of the greater good of the community.

“While I know there are those who will oppose for various reasons (aesthetic, road concerns, etc.), I urge you to consider the greater good for the community as a whole and all the residents who make the lake area their home.”

Due to a print deadline and the timing of Tuesday night’s meeting, public feedback, the results of this item and other parts of Tuesday’s meeting will be followed up on in Thursday’s Press & Dakotan.

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