I-Team 8

North Willow Farms residents say 47-foot cell towers too close to homes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Nate Tyler and his wife spent years saving up for their first home.

They researched neighborhoods across the Midwest and chose North Willow Farms on the north side of Indianapolis. It was charming and quiet – everything the Tylers wanted for their growing family.

On Wednesday, Verizon contractors installed a 47-foot cell tower on an easement in front of their home on Brewster Road, partially obscuring the view from their child’s bedroom window.

“I feel livid that this has happened,” Tyler told News 8. “We didn’t have a say in any of this.”

Verizon was not legally required to inform residents before installing 5G equipment in the neighborhood.

The city issued at least six right-of-way permits for Verizon towers in the North Willow Farms neighborhood before changing permitting requirements for wireless cell structures in July.

Applicants are now required to declare whether a proposed installation will be “within a dwelling district,” according to the city’s Department of Business and Neighborhood Services.

All pending applications – including several for projects within North Willow Farms – were placed on hold after city officials decided to change permitting requirements in mid-May.

But several applications submitted by Verizon were processed before the change, including one that led the city to greenlight the “small cell tower” near Tyler’s home.

At least two towers have been installed in the neighborhood. The company filed permit applications to install 12.

“Verizon followed all local laws and requirements as part of its build process – even moving the pole it sits on a few feet as a courtesy after a neighbor raised concerns,” a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement to News 8.

The structure was moved directly across the street from Maya and Avraham Shmoel’s driveway.

Maya said a Verizon employee promised it would be placed on the other side of a grassy island in the middle of Brewster Road, an additional 15 feet from her driveway.

“They assured me that it would be right over there, so it wouldn’t be right in front of my driveway [and] it wouldn’t be so close to anybody’s house,” she told News 8.

Maya waited for engineers to inspect the site on Friday; they never showed up and the tower remained in front of her driveway.

She and Avraham had lived on Brewster Road for 30 years and invested heavily in updating and maintaining their home. They feared installing cell towers throughout the neighborhood would lower property values.

“A lot of people who move into North Willow Farms are families with young children,” said Eric White, president of the North Willow Farms homeowners association. “My guess is when they’re looking at two houses that have similar appearances, similar size, similar type of neighborhood and one of them has a 5G tower 20 feet from where their children are going to sleep, that house is going to be less valuable than the other house that does not have a tower.”

Verizon touted the towers as “an important part of ensuring connectivity” and boosting coverage for subscribers. 

White acknowledged reliable Internet access is essential for pandemic-era e-learning and working from home. 

But the Tylers and Shmoels are not Verizon subscribers and believe they are unlikely to benefit from having 5G equipment near their homes. 

Both families cited concerns about the potential health impacts of living near cell towers.

Neighbors proposed several compromises, including relocating towers to less densely populated areas within the neighborhood, compensating homeowners closest to towers and organizing town hall meetings where Verizon officials can easily solicit resident input.

None of the suggested solutions are required by law.

Tyler and his wife, who are expecting a baby in December, are considering moving to escape the towers.

“I know that a lot of things happen that are technically legal. That doesn’t make them right,” he said.

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