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Cell phone tower goes up in Eureka Springs despite opposition from city

FCC lifted stop work order that was holding up construction

August 11, 2011|by Dustin Hodges, KY3 News | dhodges@ky3.com

EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. -- A 200-foot cellular telephone tower that just went up is now a political lightning rod. In a town that attracts tourists with its history, mixed messages are flying between some city leaders over who gave it the go-ahead.

"I just felt it was a backdoor approach by Smith Communications and, no, I'm not happy with the way they conducted themselves," said business owner and city councilman James DeVito.

What DeVito is unhappy about is the construction of a cell phone tower that he says was never meant to be there when the council re-zoned the land on which it sits.

"The property was re-zoned to accommodate the wishes of the property owner whose intent was to build more storage units. It was not re-zoned for a tower; the application was to re-zone for additional storage units," said DeVito.

But, DeVito says, after the land was re-zoned, Smith Communications seized the opportunity and a green light from the Federal Communications Commission.

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"Unfortunately we did not have restrictions at that time and, once the land was re-zoned, they were allowed to build something like that. We have since enacted legislation that would prevent them from erecting a tower in the historic district," said DeVito.

Some folks think that cell phone tower compromises the natural beauty of the landscape here, but other say it's necessary if Eureka Springs is going to remain a 21st Century tourist destination.

"It may not be the most beautiful thing architectually, but it does meet the needs of our guests of today." said Jack Moyer with The Crescent Hotel, one of the few locations in the historic district where you can see the tower on the horizon.

It is going to try to make the best of the situation.

"We've been able to blend what guests seek today as far as modern convenience with historic charm," said Moyer.

And, like all of Eureka's business owners, they hope the services it brings will outweigh any changes to the Victorian landscape.

"I don't think people focus on the fact that there's a tower in the distance when they have all the scenic beauty," said DeVito.

While tempers haven't cooled over the phone tower, the latest proposed project has the town buzzing.  Walmart wants city approval to build a scaled down version of its stores on Eureka's east side. Some are afraid it could put local stores out of business but others argue there's a SuperCenter 10 miles down the road in Berryville, and the town ought to keep those dollars in Eureka Springs.

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