South Bend Metronet inc c/o Wlc company llc special Exception

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South Bend Metronet INC,. c/o WLC Company LLC

Special Exception

Staff Report

March 20, 2008


South Bend Metronet INC,. c/o WLC Company LLC

Special Exception

Staff Report

March 20, 2008


Petitioner, with consent of owners Lewis and Donna Beeler, is requesting a special exception to expand three previously approved special exceptions (BZA-1511, 1683 and 1692) to allow co-location on an existing 250’ tall primary communications tower. This would be the fourth carrier on the tower. The tower operates 24 hours per day, seven days a week and is located on the east side of Newcastle Road about 1 mile south of Wyandotte Road and is commonly known as 7923 Ramona Lane, Sheffield 28 (SE) and 27(SW) 22-3.


The site and surrounding area is zoned Agricultural Wooded (AW). Agricultural zoning (A) exists west of Newcastle Road. Flood Plain zoning (FP) associated with the South Fork of the Wildcat Creek and Lauramie Creek, is located east of I-65.


The area is a combination of rural home sites, farm fields and wooded ravines. Several approved parcelization home sites exist just to the north and south of this property. In fact, the easement area for the tower site is located on an unimproved parcel created in 1997. None of the parcels along the private drive named Ramona Lane have been improved at this time.


The tower site gains access from Newcastle Road via an existing gravel drive south of Ramona Lane in a gated utility and access easement. According to the petition, one service vehicle will inspect the site approximately one time per month. The three existing carriers each have one vehicle visit the site per month at most, meaning there could be up to four vehicles visiting the site at the most in any given month.


No well or septic are required for this use.


This site received its first special exception in 1999 for a 250’ tall self-supported primary communications tower (BZA-1511). A second special exception for the expansion of the original approval was granted in March 2005 so that a second carrier could construct a 10’ x 16’ equipment building not shown on the original site plan. Then a third special exception request (BZA-1692) was granted in August 2005 to allow an 11.5’ x 30’ shelter to be built and have an antenna at the 185’ level of the tower. Now a fourth carrier would like to build an 8’ x 14’ shelter and place an antenna at the 213’ level of the tower.

The site is located in an 80’ x 80’ easement area off Newcastle Road next to I-65; the fenced-in portion of the compound measures 57’ x 42.5’. The last carrier to build a shelter received a setback variance of 23.5’ from I-65 instead of the required 60’ (BZA-1695). The current petitioner is also requesting a setback variance, this time for a 31’ setback from I-65 instead of the required 60’; that request will need to be approved before this special exception request can be heard. The site is surrounded by a 6’ tall security fence and is lighted per FAA requirements.
Staff not only encourages co-location, but we also encourage petitioners to show future building locations on site plans to avoid future requests to expand an existing special exception. Unfortunately, this does not always work because each carrier may need different sized equipment buildings and sometimes it may appear that there is not enough room for another building based on a certain carrier’s perception. Of course, sometimes a plain lack of foresight leads to the omission of future building sites. Whatever the reason, an additional building for the purpose of co-location, which is beneficial to the community, triggers the need for yet another expansion request. To address this recurring issue, staff and the Administrative Officers are considering changes to the ordinance to allow co-location without requiring an additional special exception.
At its meeting on January 2, 2008 the Executive Committee of the Area Plan Commission voted that granting this request would not substantially adversely affect the Comprehensive Plan.
Regarding the ballot items:

  1. Section 3.1 of the Unified Zoning Ordinance DOES authorize a special exception for a primary communications tower in the AW zoning district.

And it is staff’s opinion that:

  1. The requirements and development standards for the requested use as prescribed by the Unified Zoning Ordinance WILL be met as long as the variance request (BZA-1760) is granted. The site complies with all required setbacks and is enclosed by a 6’ tall security fence.

  2. Granting the special exception WILL NOT subvert the general purposes served by the Ordinance because the tower is existing and the addition of antennas and an equipment building will have no adverse effect on public health, safety and general welfare.

  3. Granting the special exception will not materially and permanently injure other property or uses in the same district and vicinity because of:

  1. Traffic generation: According to the petition, on average one additional vehicle will visit the site per month. With the existing three carriers also having one vehicle per month, one additional visit to the site will have minimal impact on traffic on Newcastle Road.

  2. Placement of outdoor lighting: One 100-watt light with a motion sensor will be attached to the shelter. This is typical of lighting in our rural areas.

  3. Noise production: The only source of noise will be from the air conditioning unit for the shelter.

  4. Hours of operation: 24 hours per day, seven days per week are the normal operating hours for this type of use.



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