Telecom rendering

A proposed telecommunications tower, located where Prosper ISD’s Furr Elementary sits, would stretch to a maximum of 80 feet with a five-foot lightning rod on top.

A McKinney-based elementary school may soon be getting a telecommunications tower on its property.

The McKinney Planning and Zoning commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend rezoning a piece of McKinney land owned by Prosper ISD to allow for a telecommunications tower.

The tower, located where Prosper ISD’s Furr Elementary sits, would stretch to a maximum of 80 feet with a 5-foot lightning rod on top.

City officials received around 37 letters of opposition from the community concerning the tower, and Kaitlin Gibbon, a planner with the city, said concerns ranged from the location of the tower to health and safety concerns when it came to radio frequency emissions.

However, Gibbon added, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 renders the city limited in its authority on land use decisions, and the city can’t make decisions based on the environmental effects or health concerns from radio frequency emissions.

Mason Griffin, who represented tower company Hemphill at the meeting, said Verizon Wireless is committed to being on the tower and that AT&T had expressed interest. He also said a coverage gap exists mainly in the area between Virginia Parkway and Westridge Boulevard.

“The tower would sit dead center and provide great coverage of the area,” he said.

According to a letter of intent submitted to the city, there are no other support structures in the center of the area, and almost all parcels of land in the area are zoned for residential use. The applicant team had explored putting the tower on the McKinney Fire Station No. 7 property but was turned down.

“As we understand it, the city has a policy that prohibits this kind of infrastructure on public safety facilities,” Griffin said.

Frances La Rue, communications and media specialist with the city of McKinney, said the city does not have a written policy regarding cell towers on public safety facility property but evaluates each decision on a case-by-case basis. 

According to the letter of intent, the school site is the only available parcel with space and a willingness to accommodate the project.

“Really, this tower is intended to address public safety needs by providing safe and reliable emergency 911 service,” Griffin said, “with increasing numbers of people dropping their landlines, myself included, and situations that arise where power might not be had or someone is required to use their wireless phone, wireless device to make their call.”

He added that the design is intended to be as visually unobtrusive as possible.

“We are using the slimmest possible monopole design on the market these days,” Griffin said, “and the reason for the proximity to the school’s gymnasium and the location around the school, was intended to site the tower as close to the tallest portion of the elementary school to again help disguise the profile of the tower.”

At the meeting, four attendees spoke in opposition to the rezoning. McKinney resident Gary Harnack said he felt the residents of Sailboard Drive, a neighboring street to the elementary school, were being taken advantage of by Prosper ISD.

After a round of questioning, The Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval for the rezoning.

“I have to take that the Prosper ISD and the Prosper ISD board have done a significant amount of due diligence in order to put these around their schools and what that brings to them, and feel they probably have the best for their students in mind the entire time that they do that,” Commission Vice Chairman Brian Mantzey said. “I think they’ve made the tower as least impactful as they can for the homeowners for what the need is overall, so I’ll support it.”

The item is slated to go to the McKinney City Council for final approval at its May 18 meeting, Commission Chairman Bill Cox said.

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