Are Cell Sites Really That Ugly?


Sunday, October 04, 2009

I often find myself wondering, is the perception of cell site visual impact and the actual public view on the same page? After many years of site acquisition and municipal review, I find myself feeling more and more like there is tremendous disconnect between municipal officials and what the public truly cares about with respect to the sitting of cell phone towers.

I have spent many hours of my life negotiating with landlords and municipalities over the aesthetics of an outdoor cell site. Countless hours and money has been spent to create many designs and photo simulations to minimize the visual impact of different types of installations on neighbourhoods and surrounding areas. And yet, whenever I ask a non-industry person to point out a cell site (where ever I may be), it is seldom, if ever, an immediate response (save and except for those really nasty ones...). The truth is that an is required to 'see' them.

Within the last 18 months, I was negotiating with a landlord for months regarding the aesthetics of a rooftop site, with multiple iterations of the site design and photo simulations ($$$$) and in the end, due to miscommunication (for lack of a better term), the site was installed like a typical rooftop site. The result? Nothing. That's Right. Nothing. A high profile site, with thousands of eyes passing by daily, if not hourly and not a single phone call. Not a peep from the landlord. What does this all mean? In my opinion, we negotiate WAY TOO MUCH of the aesthetics of a site on paper and simulations when in reality, nobody really notices anyway.

I think we are at a point in time where the reality of cell sites has become part of the natural landscape of our environment and has become an invisible part of our urban fabric. The majority of the public has become desensitized to the modern day cell site. Will anything change? Not likely. The issues surrounding cell sites will continue to rage on with more time and more money being spent to mitigate a perception in order to satisfy a false majority. The fact is that value associated with the function of a cell tower has surpassed perceived impacts of their form. Just some food for thought the next time you drop a wireless call, let the right people know.