Threat of 185-foot communications tower looms over historic village of Makanda

By Jacob Lorenz, Staff Reporter

Residents of the historic village of Makanda have been given a 30 day notice that a 185-foot communications tower will be erected downtown by the Illinois Railroad Central Railroad.

The town was first notified about the tower in a post by the Southern Illinoisan on Aug. 7. It said the tower will be constructed near the intersection of Makanda Road and Heern Street. 

Makanda was first contacted by Golder Associates, a consulting and construction company out of Canada, about the tower. Makanda President Tina Shingleton said she didn’t see anything out of the ordinary when asked about the tower. 

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“Then I started getting questions from business owners and some residents and that’s when I thought ‘OK, this is bigger than what we even imagined,’” Shingleton said. 

Makanda is inside Giant City State Park, and many businesses make a living off of tourists. 

Store owners on the boardwalk of Makanda have acquired over 1,000 signatures for a petition to have the tower moved from downtown Makanda.

Makanda is home to Vulture Fest, an annual festival in October with food, shopping and live music in the downtown area. Since no one is sure when the tower will be constructed, this could mean the tower will be up during the festival.

Brian Beverly, owner of Makanda Trading Company, said the residents’ main concern is the view.

Beverly said he doesn’t think he can keep his business going with the tower up and said he might move to Indiana. 

Makanda residents have reached out to Landmarks Illinois, a consulting nonprofit that helps to preserve and protect architectural and historical Illinois resources. Frank Butterfield of Landmarks Illinois is helping residents with the case.

“Our role right now is trying to get the information to empower the local residents to navigate this process with accurate information,” Butterfield said. 

Butterfield said section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 says if there is any project that uses federal funding, permitting or licensing, it triggers a review process to access the impact on historical resources. 

Makanda can use this to help its case to reposition the tower. 

Isabel Miller | @Isabelmmedia
Makanda shop owners and residents meet together to discuss the tower scheduled to build in the town on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019 inside the Rainmaker Studio in Makanda.

Even though Makanda doesn’t have any sites registered in the National Register of Historic Sites, the law can still apply to Makanda. 

“That law, for example, looks at building for sites that are either listed in the National Register of Historic Places or buildings eligible for the National Register of Historic Places,” Butterfield said.

Section 106 then examines to see if construction will have an adverse effect on the historic places.

“[Demolitions] are most definitely an adverse effect,” Butterfield said. 

Butterfield said it has not yet been determined if the construction of the tower would have an adverse effect or not. 

Shingleton had a conference call on Sept. 10 with Illinois Central Railroad Public Relations to better understand the situation. The person she talked to told Shingleton the tower will now be under 185 feet, but a definite height was not given. 

“They don’t look for it to be 185 feet tall, they’re looking at it to be less,” Shingleton said. “They couldn’t tell us how tall.” 

The tower will also be built in a floodplain. Typically, construction can’t be done in a floodplain, but Shingleton said Illinois Central already received a permit from Jackson County to build there. 

Shingleton was also told the structure of the tower has changed as well. 

“The only thing he did say was that it’s gone from the lattice tower to the monopole,” Shingleton said. 

A lattice tower is a freeform structure that typically has three sides to it, while a monopole tower is a single pole, akin to a telephone pole. 

Shingleton was told in the conference call that Makanda has a 30 day notice before construction begins.

“I know when we had our conversation Tuesday, they just said we had 30 days […],” Shingleton said, “but I don’t know when their time limit is.” 

The uncertainty of the 30 day period has Makanda acting quickly. Shingleton has another conference call scheduled with Illinois Central Railroad, and village meetings have begun. 

A meeting was held at Rainmaker Studio on Sept. 12 for concerned shop owners and residents. The meeting discussed the information from the conference call and what plan of action the village was going to take next. 

The meeting was attended by 20 members of the community. They discussed what their options were and what to ask the company during Shingleton’s next conference call. 

Railroads have been a part of Makanda for over 100 years. Shingleton and community members said Makanda has always had a good relationship with the railroad. 

Shingleton said the plan forward right now is to find a mutual agreement between Makanda and the railroad, something that will be good for both parties. 

“We understand where they’re coming from, but they need to understand where we’re coming from,” Shingleton said. “We don’t want to lose this town and people to move out. These businesses mean a lot down here.” 

Shingleton’s next conference call with Illinois Central was on Sept. 17 and another village meeting is set for Sept. 19.

Staff Reporter Jacob Lorenz can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @jtlorenz6.

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