Another reason to hate AT&T
September 8, 2007 3:34 PM   Subscribe

I live in Mesa Arizona. Recently, several churches have had or/are having these giant cross shaped cell towers installed on church property.

I can't tell you how much this bothers me. First and foremost they are eyesores. When I step out into my front yard and look at what used to be sky, there is a gigantic white cross.

I can't believe they do not violate some building law about the height a structure can be. I suspect because they are cell towers receive an exception. I spoke with the city and they said that AT&T has gone through the approval process and there is no turning back now. Apparently AT&T leases the space and pays a monthly fee to the church.

It just seems so weird to me, that a corporation is paying for a tax-exempt companies gigantic logo. Shouldn't they lose their tax-exempt status? I can't put my finger on it, but it just seems wrong to me.

Has anyone dealt with anything like this? Any suggestions on how to get rid of these or at least stop any more from being erected?
posted by Mr_Zero to Law & Government (30 answers total)
 
Depending upon the locale, there may be some zoning regulations that must be conformed with (or a variance obtained). Once that is done, and the structure complies with the local regulations or the specifics of the variance, a cell tower can look like whatever the site owner and the tower owner agree upon.

There's very little you can do about the ones already installed, AFAIK, other than raise a stink with the zoning board or start a campaign to change the zoning regulations or the way variances are obtained. To stop any more from being built, read the zoning regulations to find out what the regulations are. If the extant towers meet the zoning laws as built, campaign to change the laws. If the extant towers are under variances, find out when the zoning commission meetings are, -attend- them, and argue against the variance. Most states require public meetings for discussion of zoning variances.
posted by jlkr at 4:05 PM on September 8, 2007


If it's built, you're pretty much out of luck. Especially if the city says they followed the rules. The only way things get torn down is if they violate the zoning laws.

Conveniently, the zoning laws for Mesa are online. (Wish my town was that good.)

Now, the really bad news: if it's considered a church spire, they don't even need a special permit: Mesa City Code 11-13-2(G).1:
The height limits specified in this Ordinance do not apply to church spires, chimneys, flues, vents, flagpoles, commercial- or government-operated communication towers, light standards, or airway beacons;
OTOH, if it's a "commercial communications tower", they had to get a Special Use Permit (11-13-2(G).4).

So, the way you fight it is to stop the next one from getting that permit. If they need one. Here is the list of zoning commission hearings. Here is a meeting where they discussed the permits for two towers.

And you should figure out what zoning the area has, using this map. The height limits are in the city code and are determined by the zoning of the area. Residential is 30 feet or two stories, for instance.
posted by smackfu at 4:07 PM on September 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


not to be a smartass, but the demand for these towers isn't from the churches, its from the people who use mobile phones.

honestly, i think they blend more in better than the fake palm trees.

but to answer part of your question, federal courts decided this is pretty much okay in Diffenderfer v. Central Baptist Church (1972).
posted by uaudio at 4:07 PM on September 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


It just seems so weird to me, that a corporation is paying for a tax-exempt companies gigantic logo. Shouldn't they lose their tax-exempt status?

If that happened, you could also kiss public radio and tv goodbye, and essentially all universities, libraries, and museums, and many not-for-profit hospitals, and nearly every other charitable organization in the US.

To be clear, your objection is not that there's a cross on the church's property, and not that it's also a cell tower?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:14 PM on September 8, 2007


It's quite common for cell companies to rent space from churches. Usually they're more subtle about it, however. A lot of church steeples have cellular antennas hidden inside them.

That's completely legal, and no, it doesn't affect the Church's tax-exempt status.

Another place that cells get hidden is inside of clock towers at shopping malls. Indeed, that's one of the reasons so many shopping malls have clock towers.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:14 PM on September 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


To be clear, your objection is not that there's a cross on the church's property, and not that it's also a cell tower?

My objection is the GIANT FUCKING CROSS visible from a 1/2 mile away that AT&T paid to have constructed. I am not a superstitious person and it is just repulsive to have to look at it every time I venture outside. I was really hoping that I could keep any more of these monstrosities from being erected in my area.

Sorry, I know you are trying to help me.

Honestly, i think they blend more in better than the fake palm trees.

I would rather look at 10 fake palm trees than one religious symbol.
posted by Mr_Zero at 4:23 PM on September 8, 2007


A friend of a friend left Mesa First Assembly (Lindsay & Southern) because of their allowing Sprint to install an antenna, which, it turned out, "could be used to download pornography" or some such.

(I'm in Gilbert, btw.)
posted by disillusioned at 4:27 PM on September 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


[a few comments removed - this is not the "rant about Christianity" thread, please do not try to turn it into one.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:45 PM on September 8, 2007


There was one just erected off Brown Road (west of Ellsworth). Seriously, it just seemed like it appeared there one day. Hubby thought that maybe it was so large as to be seen from the new freeway right there.
posted by Sassyfras at 5:15 PM on September 8, 2007


There was one just erected off Brown Road (west of Ellsworth). Seriously, it just seemed like it appeared there one day. Hubby thought that maybe it was so large as to be seen from the new freeway right there.

That is the one I can see from my front yard.
posted by Mr_Zero at 5:18 PM on September 8, 2007


ahhhh, Marble Creek? (meet me at CVS - ha ha).
posted by Sassyfras at 5:57 PM on September 8, 2007


ahhhh, Marble Creek? (meet me at CVS - ha ha).

Close, but it is Grandview Estates. Looks like we will have to change the name. sigh.....
posted by Mr_Zero at 6:11 PM on September 8, 2007


Looks like we will have to change the name. sigh.....

Well . . . it is a grand cross. I'm a fan of Grandview Estates regardless.
posted by Sassyfras at 6:22 PM on September 8, 2007


"could be used to download pornography"

Oh, that is brilliant. There's your recourse, Mr_Zero. Crank out some leaflets, sprinkled liberally with scripture quotes in bold italic. Inform the parishioners there what they're condoning. This affront unto God will not stand.

Brilliant.
posted by sidereal at 6:36 PM on September 8, 2007


Oh, that is brilliant. There's your recourse, Mr_Zero. Crank out some leaflets, sprinkled liberally with scripture quotes in bold italic. Inform the parishioners there what they're condoning. This affront unto God will not stand.

Brilliant.


I was thinking the same thing.
posted by Mr_Zero at 6:42 PM on September 8, 2007


Is it all religious symbols you object to, or just Christian symbols? Would it bother you less if the church had funded the cross itself, rather than having it paid for by AT&T?
posted by clh at 7:12 PM on September 8, 2007


I think the irony is that they're using the cross to deliver pornography, one way or another.
posted by disillusioned at 7:36 PM on September 8, 2007


Is it all religious symbols you object to, or just Christian symbols? Would it bother you less if the church had funded the cross itself, rather than having it paid for by AT&T?

It is all superstitious symbols. They do nothing except help perpetuate ideals that slow societal progression. It is just extra bothersome to me that a corporate entity has bankrolled these. I strongly doubt they would do the same with minarets as wackybrit pointed out.

But I do not want jessamyn to delete my posts so I digress.
posted by Mr_Zero at 7:43 PM on September 8, 2007


I'd suggest that you walk around, browsing the website for the church of satan on your cell phone, then send a letter to the church thanking them for enabling your satan-worship over their cross-shaped cell antenna.
posted by baggers at 8:08 PM on September 8, 2007


"It is all superstitious symbols. They do nothing except help perpetuate ideals that slow societal progression."


Oh, you are so right. For a perfect example, just look at this:
posted by 4ster at 8:19 PM on September 8, 2007


Speaking as a Christian (although not one that thinks Internet=Satan worship) I would like to point out that we do not consider the cross a "logo", but a deeply meaningful symbol of our religion that the free exercise clause of the First Amendment gives us the right to display, within other legal limits (e.g. zoning law, which apparently this church has followed.)

Now, I'm torn about the whole cell tower thing. I get it that the church needs money, and I certainly need cell phone service. I have no problem with hiding a cell antenna inside a bell tower, but putting it inside an actual cross seems questionable to me. Like putting a NASCAR-style logo on the Torah scrolls at the local synagogue.

The answer for you might be to try to get your city's zoning laws changed to decrease the height limits for tall things. The answer is not to demand the removal of religious symbols that don't fit your own beliefs.
posted by mccxxiii at 8:23 PM on September 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Give the Freedom from Religion Foundation a call courtesy of the new tower.
posted by andythebean at 8:47 PM on September 8, 2007


The answer for you might be to try to get your city's zoning laws changed to decrease the height limits for tall things. The answer is not to demand the removal of religious symbols that don't fit your own beliefs.

I think I will second mccxxiii here. What you consider to be an important cause, Mr_Zero, is likely to get you into a real-life flame war where you're the bad guy. Tread carefully, but realize what you're deeming an "eyesore" is subjective by your own admission.

I'm glad we're all able to have a pretty calm, non-judgmental discussion here, whatever your religious beliefs, but something does bother me about the premise of this question. I wonder if people would be as helpful if someone had come here and casually asked, "Minorities are moving into my neighborhood. I can't tell you how much this bothers me. First of all, they are [insert stereotype here]. What's the best way to kick them out, or keep more from coming in?"

Anyway. Not to get too off topic, but I think what's driving you is a bias (or a prejudice?) that's not going to make you many friends, and if you want to get this thing done, you need people on your side. Yes, even the religious ones, and that won't happen if all you can do is talk about how much you hate their pesky little superstition.
posted by lou at 1:30 AM on September 9, 2007


Probably the only way to let a church reconsider putting up a Cross cellphone tower is to use Matthew 21:12-14 and John 2:13-17 in combination with the porn downloads, but even then they will have signed a multi-year lease agreement with AT&T.

Also it is very likely that they had internal debates about this topic already and made up their mind after careful deliberation.
posted by sebas at 2:02 AM on September 9, 2007


MmmmmYYYYY temple should beeeEEEE a house of prayyEEEr!
posted by washburn at 7:36 AM on September 9, 2007


But lou - the cross is simply HUGE. The church is a smallish church and has been there for a few years, at least. But the cross just appeared there recently and did I mention, it's HUGE!

I don't think it relates to your comment: "Minorities are moving into my neighborhood. I can't tell you how much this bothers me. First of all, they are [insert stereotype here]. What's the best way to kick them out, or keep more from coming in?".

I know he has Christians in his neighborhood - he hasn't mentioned them negatively - it's the glaring cross across the street!

The cross is an eyesore. And even though the OP has a distaste for the religion (his right) he hasn't been negative about the existence of the church whose property the cross sits on. It's the cross. IT'S HUGE (and as crosses go - it's pretty darn ugly) and really from his house that's the view he gets.

I, too, think it's a shame that cell towers are hidden in religious symbols. It just seems wrong.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:59 AM on September 9, 2007


It just seems so weird to me, that a corporation is paying for a tax-exempt companies gigantic logo.

It may be that the revenue they're getting from this isn't tax-exempt, if this helps. I remember having a conversation with a Methodist minister many, many years ago (so this info may be outdated or otherwise wrong, grain of salt and so forth) in which he explained to me that the IRS can and does tax for-profit ventures, even if they're undertaken by churches.

As an example, he mentioned a house on his church's property that they didn't know what to do with, so they fixed it up and made it a rental house. The gov't said fine, but since this is a for-profit business arrangement and not a donation, we're taking taxes on that specific revenue.

I believe this is also the basis the IRS used to try to revoke Scientology's tax-exempt status. They effectively said, sure, you may be a religious organization, but you're charging fees, not taking donations, and you're turning enough profit to make Solomon blush. Taxes plz kthx. Of course, about two dozen sleazy lawyers and a hundred nuisance suits later they caved, but you get the drift.

That does nothing to address your anger at the cross actually being there, but bottom line, I'll be shocked if you can get a city to force a church to tear down a cross on its property, eyesore or no. I'd recommend you move somewhere where there isn't a church nearby.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:36 AM on September 9, 2007


I'd recommend you move somewhere where there isn't a church nearby.

I did, then they built one, then they made it where it is impossible to go outside and not see it.
posted by Mr_Zero at 12:09 PM on September 9, 2007


I empathize, didn't mean that as dismissive snark. One of the perils of buying a home. Best thing you can do is find a thoroughly developed neighborhood with no empty lots around you. It won't eliminate the odds, but it'll reduce them significantly.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:53 AM on September 10, 2007


Just promise that you won't call AT&T and complain when you have lousy cell coverage in church. :-)

I think that you're going to be fighting an uphill battle, and it's not just AT&T that is building such structures.
posted by drstein at 4:33 PM on September 10, 2007


« Older Has anyone had any success with removing sweat /...   |   Where to find a Falstaff-sized buck basket? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.