By Sue Botos
Many people can’t wait for the next electronic gadget or technological upgrade to hit the market. But as some Rocky River residents have discovered, sometimes there is an extra price to be paid.
At its August session, the city Planning Commission tabled plans, submitted by AT&T, to install an above-ground utility cabinet near the corner of Aberdeen and Wagar roads. The structure would house the technology, including some fiber optics, to upgrade its U-verse system in the area, which allows for better delivery of digital TV and faster Internet and smartphone connections. The box would serve more than 200 homes.
AT&T representatives have faced the commission several times in recent years regarding the placement of the utility boxes, usually accompanied by neighbors worried about the appearance of the structures. But residents of Aberdeen have been particularly vehement about the aesthetics of the one proposed for their street.
A similar box, proposed for the corner of Gasser Boulevard and Hilliard Road, introduced at the same time as the Aberdeen cabinet, met with some resistance from residents concerned about visibility of traffic in the heavily traveled intersection. That box is now under construction.
“We have done our due diligence. Any new addition or upgrades can be painful, but we are serving the public’s insatiable need for bandwidth,” AT&T representative Joe Kilcoyne told the board and audience at the August meeting.
Answering questions posed by commission members, Kilcoyne said that 12 boxes have been installed in the city. He added that where possible, easements are sought from residents to keep the structures as far from traffic sightlines as possible.
He continued that the original box serving the Aberdeen area, which is located on a utility pole, puts out about 56 Hz worth of power. “Now the demand is 2,000 times that. It’s not often a utility has to contend with an increased output of 2,000 percent,” he stated. Kilcoyne said that it was Mayor Pam Bobst’s wish to make U-verse available to everyone in the city.
Residents had expressed concern over the fact that the grassy corner of Aberdeen and Wagar is a popular place for the neighborhood’s many children to play. Kilcoyne said that homeowners shot down proposals to move the box closer in to a ravine in the area or to place a smaller unit next to the existing one on the pole. “We can’t fit all of the electronics into that (existing) box, and the electric company won’t allow piggybacking,” Kilcoyne added.
During the commission’s April meeting, several Aberdeen residents came forward to discuss not only the safety issue, but the looks of the cabinet, which will stand about 4 to 5 feet high. Some felt the landscaping provided for the boxes was “a joke” and that something more in keeping with the uniqueness of the area was called for. Some even offered their own plans for natural screening of the cabinet.
At the April meeting, an AT&T representative reported that no deviations can be made regarding the appearance of the cabinets, including the green color, to which many people object. He said that the company arborist will accommodate requests for evergreen foliage.
Kilcoyne added that underground cabinets were possible, but still required an “above-ground presence” of a 2- by 5-foot slab, which would create a larger footprint.
The plans were unanimously tabled by the commission. Chairman William Bishop said the placement of a new box on a utility pole, which appeared to placate most of the neighbors, would be placed under consideration by the commission pending submission of new drawings by AT&T.