Boxed in on AT&T boxes

AT&T boxes on Florence south of Dempster

Evanston aldermen have told city staff to stop issuing permits for AT&T high-speed video boxes in city parkways.

The move was seen as a temporary measure until the City Council can address a request from a citizens group that it adopt an ordinance establishing a Right-of-Way Commission to work with the Public Works Department to review such permit requests.

The action came after one resident, Edward Walton of 1600 Dempster St., complained at the council’s Administration and Public Works Committee meeting Monday about the boxes placed in the parkway beside his home.

Walton said they are noisy, obstruct the view and have been hit with graffiti twice.

He complained that they are located just six feet from his house and that AT&T trucks frequently park next to the box to service them.

So we went to take a look at the boxes and found that: 

AT&T trucks parked by boxes

  • They are about six feet from the side of the house — because the house is built almost on the Florence Avenue property line and the parkway is very narrow — leaving only the sidewalk to separate the boxes from the house.
  • The whirring noise of a fan can be heard when standing near the boxes, but more than a few feet away it is drowned out by traffic noise from heavily traveled Dempster Street.
  • Two AT&T trucks were parked by the boxes with their motors running when we stopped by, but drove off a few minutes later.
  • The boxes were graffiti-free when we checked.
  • Given the small lot sizes and narrow parkways, it wasn’t obvious where on the Florence Avenue block the boxes could have been placed and be any less visible to an adjacent property owner.

Boxes, looking northwest

At the council committee meeting, city engineering chief Paul Schneider said that AT&T plans to install the video boxes at 94 locations in Evanston, and the city has issued permits for 89 of them. Of those, Schneider said:

  • AT&T has completed work on 68.
  • It has installed boxes, but not completed wiring, at 16 more.
  • It has poured concrete pads but not installed boxes at 5 additional locations.

Permits for at least some of the locations where work has not been completed have expired and need to be renewed, Schneider added.

Under legislation adopted by the state, the city has no authority to refuse to let AT&T install its system and only limited discretion over the location of the boxes.

Neal Levin of 1232 Maple Ave., a leader of the "Stop the Box" steering committee which urged establishment of the new city review panel, said, "A lot of people are to blame for what happened" with the AT&T high-speed video project, "but the city needs to be willing to enforce regulations to make AT&T adjust the box locations."

The aldermen referred the issue to the council’s Rules Committee for further discussion.

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