Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Hiding in Plain Sight?

I think that old saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees doesn't apply to cell towers. A few years ago, maybe during my high school tenure, this particular cell tower was erected, about 3 miles from my home. As it was in a wooded area, one of the conditions of its zoning approval was that it be disguised.

Let's see a show of hands. Who thinks that this is a tree?

I think I'm more offended by the fact that they added branches than I am by the presence of the tower. Of course, that might not be a fair statement, because I'm not really offended by the idea of cell phone towers. It's not like the rolling hills of East Cherokee are Denali or anything. If any words could be used to describe this ZIP code, they would be 'Atlanta's next suburban frontier.'

Ignoring my opinion about the intelligence of that development pattern, it seems to me that if we are going to erect cell towers (or radio towers, for that matter)--and we are--we might as well be up front about it. Especially, when hiding the fact makes it more obvious. There are plenty of other towers in the area which chose not to be species-confused. This tower, however, is at least three times the height of the next tallest Longleaf Pine in the immediate vicinity.

Really now, what was the point? It just seems absurd to try to dress up a cell tower for Halloween (all year round).

Of course, this exercise in futility might give us some other ideas about how to disguise LULUs (Locally Unwanted Land Uses). For instance, we could disguise the controversial proposed aerial guideway for Metro through Tysons Corner as telephone lines. We could just add some fake transformers and no one would notice, right? How about billboards? My hometown has virtually banned them. Why not just add some pretend Dogwood blossoms, then people will think they were just shrubs (and they would remember to shop at Q-Mart, too).

Jokes aside, though, there are good reasons to hide less than attractive uses. When it makes sense to do so, hiding things like subway vent shafts, power substations, and even transformers, can protect the urban fabric and land values. WMATA uses shrubs to hide their vents and emergency exits, I've seen house facades used to hide substations, and rock-like covers are used fairly frequently to hide transformers for underground utilities. Church steeples, water towers, and high rises make good hiding places for broadcasting antennas. A few particularly creative instances include using tall, free-standing restaurants/observation decks to hide these facilities (like the CN Tower or Fernsehturm).

Sometimes, though, we should just call a spade a spade.

1 comment:

cherryblossommj said...

ridiculous, btw i despise conyers, i want out. now!