County Eyes Park For Communications Tower

Site in Kirkwood Park to undergo soil tests for suitability of 190-foot tower

Small red flags mark the proposed location of a communications tower in the west end of Kirkwood Park near the Couch Avenue bridge. photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
February 22, 2013
A 190-foot communications tower planned for Kirkwood Park along Couch Avenue has been put on hold for at least a month due to a timely suggestion from Chief Administrative Officer Mike Brown.

St. Louis County's Emergency Communications Commission (ECC) plans to build 25 towers - large, free-standing, three-legged trestles - around the area to provide coordinated radio communication among police, fire and emergency vehicles, Director David "Duff" Barney told the Kirkwood City Council at its Feb. 7 meeting. The nexus of the network will be a 32,000-square-foot, $16-million communications center under construction in Ohlendorf West Park in Ballwin. Funding comes from a sales tax approved by county voters in 2009. The system is to be complete by the end of the year, Barney said.

The ECC originally chose a site near a city water storage tank for the communications tower that will serve the Kirkwood area, Brown said. Water mains connecting to the tank made that impossible, however. ECC then chose the current site, which is nearby and happens to be the former location of the water storage tank.

Brown recalled that the city had relocated its storage tank after it started to settle dangerously due to subsoil conditions. Brown suggested to the ECC that soil samples be taken rather than risk an encounter with the same soft subsoil.

Such tests will be conducted this month, according to Barney. He added that ECC will not begin lease negotiations with Kirkwood until test borings are conducted on the subsoil.

The new communications tower would dominate the landscape in the southwest section of Kirkwood Park. It would, for example, be more than four times higher than the city's 45-foot replacement water tank, said Murray Pounds, director of the Kirkwood Parks Department.

The proposed tower is 10 feet taller than Kirkwood's zoning code permits, Brown said. Furthermore, city ordinances restrict leases of city park lands to terms of one year without voter approval, he said.

However, ECC likely has authority to condemn a site for a tower, thus preempting the city's ordinances, Brown said. He said the city is hopeful of convincing the commission to locate the tower outside its parks space.

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