Chesterton Tribune



Health concerns heard over new cell tower; indoor park wins variance

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A decree in the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 led to the Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeal’s approval for a 140-foot cell tower to be constructed at the former town street department on Thursday, after hearing one resident’s claims that it could be dangerous for people’s health.

Donald Spisak who resides on Wabash Ave. told the BZA that shortly after he retired he began having symptoms of strong fatigue, discomfort and high blood pressure which went away when he installed a plug-in device in his home that shields against harmful electromagnetic waves. He believes his ailments stem from radiation from the existing cell tower on Waverly Rd. next to Joe’s Towing.

As Spisak put it, “our bodies run on a frequency and the cell tower alters that frequency” and it affects some people more than others. He said he’s read reports that suggest children living near cell towers are more prone to developing leukemia and that cell phone companies include disclaimers in their contracts telling customers to keep their phones at least one half inch away from their heads to prevent brain cancer.

“These things that the research is coming up with, it’s awful,” he said.

Michael Howley representing Central States Tower, who is joining with the Town of Chesterton on the petition, said that studies by engineers on sites like the one proposed show they have a radio frequency that is “four times below the typical baby monitor” and are “extremely nominal” compared to facilities with antennas that send their frequencies out for miles. Those can use up to 50,000 watts of power while the cell towers would be 40 to 60 watts each.

The tower would operate on a system comparable to what hospitals use for their internal communications, he said.

The Federal Communications Commission has mandated these cell tower sites operate within a certain frequency bandwidth, Howley added.

Attorney Greg Babcock, who filled in as attorney for the town, said Central States Tower will be required to produce a radio frequency emissions report which will be part of the approval.

As for the health concern, the Telecommunications Act states that local governments are not permitted to reject placement of wireless service facilities such as cell towers on the basis of health or environmental effects of radio frequency emissions, said Babcock.

Although having no power over the law, BZA member Jim Kowalski said he wonders “why the federal government would do all these mandates if there was a serious problem.”

Factors that could be considered by the board, such as setbacks, use and location, all seemed favorable.

Howley said the tower would be at the southwest end of the parcel which would not interfere with the Town’s public works department.

The spot was picked after identifying a “capacity problem” in wireless service where too many customers in the downtown business area are trying to use the service during the day and causing coverage problems.

He said it’s to the point where cell phone calls can’t be made, which is problematic since more than 40 percent of the population are no longer using landline phones, and improved data capabilities are needed so emergency services can communicate.

The new tower would enable Verizon Wireless to improve coverage in a .9 mile radius.

Meanwhile, a second hearing on the agenda for a cell tower -- this one at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church at 2050 West CR 1100N -- was granted a continuance until the July 23 BZA meeting.

Indoor park

In other business, no one from the public spoke on the proposed indoor children’s “amusement park” in the South Calumet Business district, but the plan received praise and approval from the BZA.

Chesterton resident Bill Nolan and his sister Marilyn Busch, owners of MNB Development, plan to purchase and install playground equipment on the first floor of the old RangeMasters, a 22,000 sq. ft. two-story building, and use the upstairs for laser tag for older children, a kind of combination of Bellaboo’s Play and Discovery in Lake Station and the indoor attractions at Zao Island in Valparaiso.

There will an arcade area but it will not have video games, Nolan said. Concessions will be provided by the adjacent Tiger Lily Cafe.

Nolan said the business plans to employ 10-12 employees starting out and the proposed hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Babcock, representing the petitioners, said the building is in excellent condition and will draw people to Chesterton given its location along Ind. 49.

“I think there is a benefit that will flow from this property,” Babcock said.

MNB has the assets and the expertise available to open and operate the business, Babcock said. Nolan said the investment is expected to be in the six-figure range.

Kowalski said he would like to see the building occupied and feels this type of business is needed. He was happy to hear the business owners intend to follow through, after times there have been petitions for similar properties granted by the BZA that never developed.


The petition for a use variance at 114 S. 11th St. allowing the operation of a chiropractor’s office was withdrawn Thursday.

Babcock said complications have arisen with the chiropractor who was in talks to use the property. The petitioner may seek to rezone the property at a later time, he said.





Posted 6/26/2015




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