MEDINA, Ohio - Like an unwanted guest, it arrived at the front lawn of a home in an upscale Medina neighborhood.
The 40-foot, wooden utility pole was delivered without warning and explanation.
Only after neighbors began to ask questions did they learn that the pole would be used as part of a mini cell phone tower being built in the area.
However, despite the neighborhood’s concerns about aesthetics and safety, city officials said their hands are tied due to a 2016 change in state law.
The pole arrived on Dec. 19.
“I got a text message from my neighbor who lives in this house next door. He said, ‘what is this in our front yard?’” Julius Juron told News 5. “I said 'I don’t know.' I came home and I saw this 40-foot telephone pole laying here.”
At first, Juron had no idea what it was. He then theorized it was going to be a new storm siren. After calling Medina city officials, he found out it was going to be a mini cell tower. As for why it would be built out in front of his house, Juron hasn’t the slightest idea.
“There’s been no conversation between the cell phone company and me about why they picked this spot, whether it’s GPS coordinates or studies they’ve done, I don’t know,” Juron said.
The neighborhood that Juron has called home for more than two decades has buried utilities. Even the street lights have a special, antique look. The soon-to-be-built mini tower clashes with all of it.
“I grew up in a neighborhood in New York where they had telephone poles everywhere. I’m not opposed to telephone poles and I didn’t buy into this neighborhood because it didn’t have telephone poles,” Juron said. “But why is this here? That was my big thing. Why can’t we put this somewhere else? It’s a nice neighborhood. It’s got nice trees. It’s got nice sight-lines. And I’ve got this.”
Juron can begrudgingly thank state lawmakers and the overall change in the wireless industry. Cellular providers have largely switched to mini-towers, which are 40 to 50 feet tall, instead of the traditional 100-foot towers that currently dot the landscape.
In late 2016, state lawmakers passed a ‘Christmas tree’ bill that contained dozens of random changes, including a provision that stripped local communities of their ability to dictate where these mini cell towers would be installed. The measure has led to a class action lawsuit.
As part of the change in state law, local communities can only deny a building permit if the mini tower if it presents a safety issue. For instance, a permit can be denied if the tower prevents a driver from seeing around a corner, said Patrick Patton, the city engineer for Medina.
The change in state law essentially bypasses municipalities.
“It’s frustrating because no one has talked to us about it. It just showed up,” Juron said. “There’s been no communication. Its like big brother is going to come in and bypass the city and say we’re going to stick it in here and you can’t do anything about it. That’s the frustrating part about it.”
Patton said he doesn’t blame Juron for feeling that way. Patton and other city officials are trying to meet with the out-of-state contractor in hopes of convincing them to move the mini tower to a nearby park. Medina already has one mini tower but it is not located in a residential area, Patton said.
Patton hopes to be able to meet with the contractor within the next week.
“There’s a big power station over here. Put it over there. Not in my front yard,” Juron said.