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‘Our hands are tied’

An Iowa cell phone tower law prevented the city of Creston from disallowing a conditional use permit for a tower in the northeastern part of the city

Creston’s city council upheld the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission to allow Cloud 1 Services to build a cell phone tower at 1100 N. Ash St.Tuesday during their regular biweekly meeting that was held via Zoom.

Although presented with a petition with more than 100 signatures in opposition to the tower and testimony from Curtis Bolinger, who lives near the proposed tower, the council members voted 5 to 2 to approve the conditional use permit. Terry Freeman and Brian Davis voted no, while Jocelyn Blazek, Rich Madison, Matt Levine, Brenda Lyell-Keate and Ron Higgins voted yes.

During the meeting Madison asked Creston City Attorney Marc Elcock about an Iowa state law that essentially required them to vote in favor of the permit, saying “our hands are tied.”

“That state code is 8c3, which is called the Iowa Cell Citing Act, and ... it essentially strips local control on this particular issue,” Elcock said. “In fact it tells you, you cannot reject an application based on any alleged environmental or health concerns. ... If it were a residential area ... perhaps you could reject it.”

Bolinger asked the council to deny the request on the basis of its effect on property values, calling on the council to uphold existing zoning.

Levine said there is no zoning that allows cell phone towers to be built within city limits, so the council would need to approve a conditional use permit no matter where the company wanted to build the tower if it was within city limits.

“A light industrially zoned area is a prime location for them,” Levine said.

Jay Wendt of Bug Tussel Wireless explained that the company looks for sites that are not considered residential when planning their towers and that they had already considered using an existing tower.

“We did look at those existing towers,: Wendt said. “They don’t meet our rf needs.When I say ‘rf,’ I mean radio frequency engineering. They didn’t really meet the needs and didn’t get the coverage and didn’t get the capability that AT&T and First Net and Bug Tussel Wireless is looking for.”

Freeman compared the visual effect of the tower to water towers, which he said are visible for miles. The new tower would be 40 feet taller than a water tower.

See the May 13 issue of the Creston News Advertiser for an account of the planning and zoning meeting where the conditional use permit was recommended at https://tinyurl.com/PZcelltower

Cyber security

The council approved a new contract with Access Systems IT to include cyber security in addition to what they already provide. The change will cost the city approximately $300 more per month bringing the total to $1,200. This will protect against attacks such as ransomware, in which attackers lock down a computer network until a ransom is paid.

Access Systems sales manager Steve Ames compared the new service to the difference between fire insurance and smoke detectors. Access Systems’s program will automatically monitor the city’s networks looking for known attacks and unusual activity. It would then isolate the problem from the rest of the network until it can be examined.

Madison asked if this was needed since the city of Creston is fairly small.

Ames replied that hackers tend to target smaller entities because they often do not have a security system to prevent it.

The service would include training. Ames said the company sends fake emails that look similar to those a hacker would use to those on the network to see who clicks on the links. When the individual interacts with the email, a report is sent to Access Systems and further training is offered. Over time, the hope is that fewer recipients will be fooled into clicking on suspicious links, Ames said.

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