BILLINGS – The Billings City Council will consider a proposal to install a faux pine tree cell phone tower at a location near Rocky Mountain College.
If approved the proposed Verizon cell phone tower would be 50 feet tall and camouflaged to look like a tree. The facility would be located on a residential zone parcel at 13th Steet West, which is currently where a Presbyterian church sits, adjacent to Poly Drive.
Tuesday the Billings city planning board met to recommend approval of the structure. According to planning staff, there is now a public hearing set for Jan. 14 at the council meeting.
The tower could solve some cell coverage and capacity issues for the Rocky Mountain College area but can’t cover more than a mile of coverage area, planning staff said Friday.
The proposed special review could provide reliability to an essential service in the Billings West End neighborhoods, also saying that Verizon Wireless needs to increase its capacity in that area of Billings, according to planning staff.
Billings does experience areas of spotty cell phone coverage, and according to planning staff Verizon Wireless has been working for some time to find coverage for those areas.
This proposed faux tree cell tower is not the first in the Billings area. Back in July of 2018 council approved a faux tree tower on the 2500 block of Shiloh Road and there is also another similar structure at hole three at the Yellowstone County Club.
However, the concept does have its controversy.
Planning staff said there is maintenance to go along with these types of cell towers over time because of weather exposure.
If approved the structure would be placed alongside some garages and outbuildings on the church property where there are other native trees.
Planning staff also says any generator on site will use “whisper quiet” technology so adjacent land uses are not disturbed, the ground equipment cabinet and shelter must be buffered with screening or enclosure so that it cannot be seen from the neighboring properties and there shall be no construction before 7 a.m. or after 8 p.m. daily.