Hampton residents aren’t all happy about possible new neighbor

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UPDATE: The Hampton Village Zoning Board voted 3-2 to recommend approval of the cell tower. The issue now goes to the Board of Trustees.

ORIGINAL STORY: A plan to build a 150-foot tall cell phone tower is building up a fight in Hampton, Illinois.

One of the owner's of Shannon's Bar & Grill off Route 84 also owns some property next to the restaurant and is in talks with Verizon to lease some of that land so the company can build a monopole cell phone tower.

Tammy Burgess, Manager of Shannon's, says the tower is needed because visitors and residents who live beneath the bluff can't get a strong signal.

"Customers have a problem getting coverage here," she said. "They're always complaining."

"It affects the people that travel through here, the people down at the park," she added. "It's very important. Not only for the business, not only for myself, but for the residents that live below the hill."

However, above the hill, residents who live in the Hampton Woods neighborhood have several concerns. The primary one being their health.

"The top of the tower is going to be emitting microwave transmissions right out of the top of it right into our neighborhood," said Roger Greene.

"The health issues could be grave," added LuAnn Haydon. "I don't think we've studied enough about what it does to the human body. It might not happen to our generation, but think about the next generation and the generation after that and what could be going into the soil that could affect this whole community."

Neighbors say they're also concerned the tower will obstruct their view and drop property values up to 20%.

"We built our house 31 years ago," explained Haydon. "We always wanted to live by the river or near the river and wanted to see it if we could, so it took us about two-and-a-half years to find the lot we wanted."

"From what my understanding was, it's going to sit pretty close to level with their house," added Greene. "I wouldn't want that in my back yard."

"It's just a disruption of the neighborhood and for why - for one bar that could get a signal booster," Greene said.

Burgess said the bar will not make any money off the tower. The owner of the property who, Burgess says, lives in California, is going to lease the land for 25 years.

"It is going to bring in more revenue for the city on the property because the property taxes will be increased and Verizon will be paying those property taxes that the tower is on, so it will be bringing more money in also for the Village of Hampton," she said.

However, Haydon and Greene say they wonder why the company can't build the tower somewhere else.

"Who's benefiting here?" asked Greene. "If a cell phone tower is really needed, then why not put it up across the street where the Heritage Center is which is city property. The city can get the benefit from a 25-year lease and they're not impacting on any neighborhoods. It's a win-win for everybody."

"There are plenty of places down by the river and on the bluff behind us, further away from the neighborhoods, further away from any problems that could invade our circumstances," said Haydon.

"According to Verizon, this is the only solution," Burgess said. "A couple of the other places that Verizon did look at on the other side of Route 84 are in flood plains, so that's not feasible for them."

Those for and against the project planned to meet with leaders in the village on Thursday, August 7th, 2014. The Quad City Audubon Society, a conservation group focused on eagles and their habitats which is another concern, as well as representatives from Verizon will also be at the meeting.