By David Fleet
Atlas Twp– By a 5-0 vote on Monday night, the township board of trustees denied a request for a conditional use permit for a cell tower constructed on private property by Skyway Towers, LLC.
On Dec. 21, the township planning commission recommended denial of erecting the165-foot monopole communications tower in the 8000 block of East Baldwin Road. Skyway Towers, which has more than 480 towers nationwide, say the new equipment is necessary due to the growing demand for wireless service in the area. Following the planning commission’s 6-0 vote for recommendation to deny—Skyway Towers officials contacted Tere Onica, township supervisor, requesting adjournment and an opportunity to provide additional information regarding the project prior to the board of trustees vote.
Steven Estey, an attorney from Dykema’s Real Estate Department, representing Skyway Towers, LLC and Verizon, attended the meeting. The application was filed in April 2016 and the planning commission first heard the request in June 2016.
Estey said the proposed Baldwin tower location is the preferred site for the coverage issues they are facing, and have tried hard to meet the criteria for the application set forth by the township.
Estey said three specific items on the application were requested by the planning commission to be explained in more detail: Could the existing township towers be retrofitted to address the coverage area concerns of Verizon?; could the Michigan Electric Transmission Company high voltage transmission corridor to the south of the proposed site be used to co-locate tower equipment?; and a request to explain in more detail the coverage needs and the propagation analysis required for communications.
“We hired a company to provide and prepare a report,” said Estey. “That report was prepared, it was difficult to get information from Consumers and the Michigan Electric Transmission Company to be co-located on existing towers. The existing towers are not an option to meet the coverage needs. We have put a lot of time and effort into this site, we want to receive a determination from this board. We have tried hard to provide information (to the township), we’ve met our obligation.”
Pat Major, township trustee and planning commission member, said Skyway officials provided several options to convince the planning commission of the need for the tower on East Baldwin Road property.
“The planning commission voted unannioumsly to deny the appication,” said Major. “The planning commission had a township room full of people— more than I’ve ever seen in a township hall meeting. Everybody was against it and (many) questioned whether there is a need for it (the tower) or not. If you go on the Verizon website the area has 4G coverage. The applicants say they need better coverage. There’s an inconsistency whether they have good coverage or not. We (the planning commission) looked at other sites that could provide coverage. The other solution was to co-locate on the Consumers (Energy) tower. They did not convinice the planning commission they could not co-locate on their tower.”
Major said the township hierarchy requirement is the tower should be located on township property first; if not there, it should go on school district property; followed by options of county property, or public utility property and private property a last resort.
“The thought has always been if the whole community has to look at an ugly cell tower, the whole community should benefit from it,” he said. “They could not pick a worse site. So there are a number of options they had and we feel putting the tower in a residential area is just not workable. Actually it breaks too many of our ordinances.”