An existing cell phone tower in northeast Independence is about to get taller, despite one neighbor’s objections.

An existing cell phone tower in northeast Independence is about to get taller, despite one neighbor’s objections.

The Independence Planning Commission Tuesday night unanimously approved the extension of a tower at 1604 N. Davis Road near U.S. 24 and Bundschu Road. AT&T plans to build a 32-foot tall extension on the existing 89-foot tall wireless communication tower that Cricket Communications now uses. Representing AT&T, Black & Veatch employee Laurie Hatfield said the company aims to use existing cell phone towers rather than constructing new towers. AT&T would provide the fourth generation of cell phone standards with the new location, as well as the previous 3G and 2G standards, Hatfield said.

Audrey Brattain, who has lived in the 1400 block of North Aztec Avenue for 28 years, spoke against the application, saying she has a direct view of the tower from multiple windows, as well as from her home’s deck and patio. Brattain said she was not notified of the tower when it was originally built about five years ago.

“I would have loved to have been notified when it first went up because I was really disappointed when I first saw a cell phone tower basically in my backyard,” Brattain said. “I think most people would have felt the same way, too.”

According to city records, the original tower’s building permit was issued in 2006 and the certificate of occupancy took effect in 2008. The city overhauled its Unified Development Ordinance, which provides standards for land use and development throughout Independence, in mid-2009, so previous development rules did not require the city to notify Brattain of the tower’s construction.

For non-residential use districts, a special use permit was only needed for 90 feet and taller. The old code also specified an agricultural district but did not include the distinction of residential agricultural district, which is the land-use type where the tower was built.

“If this were to take place today in the UDO, it would have had to go through a special use for the tower,” said Tom Scannell, the city’s planning manager, adding that Brattain would have received a notification if the original tower went in under today’s standards.

Black & Veatch engineers had considered other locations along U.S. 24, Hatfield said, but the existing tower was determined as the best option. The city’s UDO and the Telecommunications Act of 1996 both encourage the use of existing cell phone towers instead of creating new towers based on their environmental effects, said Independence Assistant City Counselor Bridget Guth.

“I certainly empathize,” commission member Lori Harp told Brattain. “It’s unfortunate that you didn’t have the opportunity to speak when this tower originally went in. ... While it’s unfortunate, I think from AT&T’s perspective and in looking elsewhere, I think adding onto this tower is still probably the best option, rather than having to put one somewhere else.”

“I know that we don’t want to have multiple towers,” commission member Karen DeLuccie said. “So if we don’t add on this one, we’re looking at adding a tower. I wish we could go back in time, but we can’t.”

Like similar applications, the Planning Commission’s vote is just recommendation. The City Council will take the final vote at a future meeting.