Photo provided
Krysty-An Spartz works in her flower and organic berry gardens most spring and summer days. But recently, she’s been worried about the possibility of a wireless cellular tower going up on adjacent property.
Photo provided Krysty-An Spartz works in her flower and organic berry gardens most spring and summer days. But recently, she’s been worried about the possibility of a wireless cellular tower going up on adjacent property.

Krysty-An Spartz and her husband Charlie Spartz own 11 acres that include the historic Wainwright home, a recently approved wedding barn and a flower and organic berry farm.

Krysty-An can be found there most spring and summer days nurturing her garden. It’s a passion that she loves.

They’ve been happily creating a haven, where couples can come and celebrate their weddings, anniversaries and other milestones. Where families can have gatherings. And where their daughter can lead kids summer camps.

Three years ago, Krysty-An Spartz began clearing trees with a backhoe that her husband taught her how to use. She plowed a couple of acres with a little two-bottom plow, oftentimes hopping off the tractor to chop away large tree roots tangled up in the plow blades. She tilled and planted pasture and field grass as well as several hundred blueberry bushes.

And a year ago, her husband built “a most extraordinary barn” to house her tractor and her “dream cow.” After inquiries about the barn, the Spartzes received the City’s approval to use it as a wedding venue.

Fast forward to Jan. 2, the Spartzes learned that White River Christian Church, which for a time they had attended, had struck a deal with a company called Lendlease to permit a wireless communication facility to be installed 40 feet from their property line. It would be a 5G tower, a Monopine design, standing 170 feet tall and camouflaged as a pine tree. The petition for a land variance would go to the Noblesville Board of Zoning Appeals just five days later, on Jan. 7.

But they had to fight back.

For the past month, their minds have been focused on nothing else but a cell tower that could end their dreams of their wonderful haven. They’ve sent emails, attended meetings and gathered research. And they’ve tried to do everything possible to make their voices heard.

Krysty-An Spartz wouldn’t work in her gardens again. The couple wouldn’t get an opportunity to bring back the Wainwright home to its grandeur. They wouldn’t get the opportunity to transform their historic farm in downtown Noblesville into a renewed place to share not only with the community, but also with people from outside the city. 

“No bride would want to have her wedding there with that monstrosity looming over her celebration,” Krysty-An said, sadly.

The Spartzes wanted to be good neighbors to the church, but believed that the placement of a 5G cell tower anywhere on the church property would be devastating to their business, their property value and way of life.

Research shows that new cell tower construction has an immediate negative effect on surrounding real-estate values. The Spartzes found towers undesirable in their own research, which claims 94 percent of people are less interested in purchasing a property near a cell tower. They thought it was morally wrong for the church’s neighbors to suffer the negatives.

Plus, there were perceived health concerns. While the federal government says cell towers are safe, are they really? In their research, they found European courts have ruled that cell phone service does, in fact, cause cancer.

Would a 5G tower effect church attendance? Would members want their kids playing sports near a 5G tower? Would parents want to send their kids to preschool there?

Some research suggests that 5G cell towers could potentially be more dangerous than other cell towers because of the shorter length of waves required to support the bandwidth. 5G has the potential to be about 20 times faster than 4G, meaning you can download content—like your favorite binge-worthy YouTube videos—in significantly less time.

This story started nine months ago when, in May 2018, the church was approached by a communications company and agreed to lease a parcel of land for construction of a cellular tower, Scott Alexander, executive pastor, told me, when this journalist inquired about the church’s motivation.
“The project was approved by the White River Board of Elders after seven months of prayer and research,” he said in an email at 9:08 p.m. Thursday. (I had requested that the church respond by midnight.)

“White River’s mission of connecting every life to Jesus has always been and will continue to be the one criterion for decision making,” Alexander said. “Leasing this property allows White River to use these funds for that one mission.”

While Alexander said, “The company leasing the property said there are no 5G antenna planned for the site in its current design,” the company representative actually admitted, when asked, that the tower would indeed be 5G, according to those present.

Krysty-An said, “We were told by people familiar with these situations, people with far more experience than us, that we were ‘wasting our time,’ and that these towers ‘never get turned down.’ In fact, our own attorneys were resigned to the fact that in all likelihood the tower would get approved.” She was reminded that their efforts to get the tower moved a few hundred feet from their property line was no small accomplishment.

The petition, at press time, was still on the agenda for tonight’s Noblesville Board of Zoning Appeals meeting at 6 p.m. at Noblesville City Hall.

However, at 1:04 p.m. Friday, WRCC senior pastor Tim Brock copied me on an email to the City’s associate planner Rina Alvarez, informing her of a decision to stop the cellular tower from building on church property. “Our leadership team, after prayerful deliberation, has decided to withdraw our petition BZNA-0208-2018/ BZNA-220-2018 involving the installation of the Verizon cell tower,” Brock said.

“Our attorney and representatives from Lendlease have all been notified today that we are withdrawing our petition to the city,” the pastor said. 
I like to think that my journalist inquiry might have had a little something to do with the church’s decision to change their minds. The church didn’t mean to be the bad guy but in this instance, I would have to take the Spartzes’ side. 

The prospect of cellular towers popping up near our homes is becoming more and more of a reality. Neighbors be aware, there will be a next time and it could be near you when a developer is knocking on your door or on the door of a land owner near you. But I urge you to say, “Hold on, a minute.” 
As of 4 p.m. Friday, the City had not yet received an official letter from Lendlease, the company that has a contract to lease property at the church, of the change to drop the petition.  

But the Spartzes are already much relieved.

And it goes without saying that they endured a less than pleasant experience with their initial requests via texts, phone calls, emails and meetings with church elders and didn’t feel they were heard, and that the neighborhood had no choice but to ratchet up the pressure until voices mattered. “
They were most saddened by the fact that WRCC was indeed ready to move forward despite opposition from the surrounding community, as confirmed in an open letter from the pastor to the congregation just this past Thursday.

”We are certainly glad that it is over,” Charlie Spartz said, revealing a follow-up letter sharing with the congregation of the church’s decision to back away and not go forward with the cell tower. “We are profoundly grateful for the one elder, Todd Yeager, who fought tirelessly for us.”

The letter on Friday sent out to the church from the Board of Elders, stated: “The board, in a spirit of being a good neighbor, has therefore decided to withdraw from the cell tower contract.”

Charlie Spartz said, “Our takeaway is that the local ordinances need to be tightened up significantly. Treating Krysty-An’s business, a hand-tended blueberry and cut-flower farm and wedding venue, the same as an asphalt plant is ridiculous. They should not be simply lumped together as ‘commercial.’ That technicality was the basis of one elder’s justification for the 40-foot property-line setback. Also, these towers should never be forced upon a residential neighborhood.”

Krysty-An feels they’ve made a difference, even for others, who may be in the same predicament someday. 

The Spartzes didn’t give in. They went the extra mile. “It’s been said the extra mile is a place where there’s not a lot of traffic, but we found ourselves there surrounded with family, friends and an amazing community of neighbors willing to travel it with us. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com