by Thomas P. Healy
Many Midtown residents have recently received notification of multiple requests for a variance of development standards to install wireless cell structures near their homes.
During Mayor Joe Hogsett’s Sept. 22 virtual press briefing, deputy mayor for community development Jeff Bennett said the reason this issue has come to the forefront is thanks to policies that City of Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development (DMD), in collaboration with Business & Neighborhood Services, Public Works, and Corporation Counsel, have put in place. “Those poles had been installed along thoroughfares in nonresidential areas since 2015, but now we’re seeing applications for permits to install 5G towers in residential areas,” he said. In telecommunications, 5G refers to the fifth generation of technology for cell phone networks.
“Over the last 4 months, we have put together a process that allows robust public comments and public hearings,” Bennett said, adding, “We are limited in what we can do by both state and federal regulations. We think the process we have put in place allows for residents to have their appeals heard. The Board of Zoning Appeals has made decisions based on the facts of the matter that are binding under Indiana state law.”
Midtown neighborhood leaders have requested and received automatic continuances in order to give the community time to fully inform neighbors about the recent massive deployment. The Meridian-Kessler Neighborhood Association (MKNA) has rallied the support of the Broad Ripple Village Association and the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association as well as City-County Councillors John Barth and Keith Potts. Together, they’ve sent an open letter [PDF] to Mayor Joe Hogsett and DMD interim director Rusty Carr to outline issues and recommendations. MKNA posts useful information about the issue on its website.
Eric White, president of North Willow Farms Homeowners Association, has posted a map of Marion County showing all small cell tower locations and the disposition of each location.
The City of Indianapolis has an information page about small cell facilities. DMD planning staff must review each petition for variance and present a report supporting approval or denial of each request. The Sept. 22 staff report [PDF] outlines many of the staff’s reservations about installation of cell towers in residential areas.
Written statements may be emailed to DMDpubliccomments@indy.gov at least 24 hours prior to a hearing. They should include the case number and approximate address of the orange public notice sign location. Citizens may also email firstname.lastname@example.org with the address of the proposed 5G pole to receive general information regarding the case number or the staff planner assigned to the case. Contact your local neighborhood association for details on upcoming hearings about cases in your area.