Around 30 concerned parents and local residents packed an Aug. 8 Addison Township Planning Commission public hearing to voice their thoughts on a proposed cell tower at the northeast corner of Hosner and Oakwood roads, near Kingsbury Country Day School.
Planning commissioners conducted the public hearing on a special use permit, which would be required to bring the project to fruition.
If approved, the proposed 195-foot monopole would be located on a 5.24 acre, township-owned site.
Jonathan Crane, a civil engineer and attorney representing Verizon, opened the public hearing with a statement.
“We’ve seen some of the concerns in the letters that came in . . . concerns about ice falling from the towers. Ice falling is an issue with guide towers and lattice towers, not monopoles. It’s safe. I have no reservations as a professional engineer about putting (the tower) in this location,” Crane said.
“We have located cell towers on every land use possible. On school properties, college campuses, single-family residences. This site was selected because it has to fit (Verizon’s) grid. Putting the (tower) there not only generates revenue for the township, it provides essential public communication services.”
During the hearing, many parents expressed concerns about the potential impact on Kingsbury enrollment rates, health and the environment.
George Butler, an attorney from Dickinson Wright representing Kingsbury Country Day School, told the board he did not feel Verizon officials had made a sufficient effort in seeking alternate locations for the tower.
“Prove to me this is the only location where you can rationally place this and that it’s an absolute necessity that it be placed there,” Butler said. “In this commercial context, no such argument could be made. There isn’t any evidence (in) the record that they’ve shown that they’ve tried and failed to have an opportunity to place this cell tower. This looks to the public, and I’m not necessarily alleging this, but this looks to the public (like), ‘Hey here’s some land Addison Township can’t get any use out of. It doesn’t meet the requirements, but if Addison’s the one approving and blessing its own bearings, (the township will) make $20,000 a year from this cell tower.’”
William Carroll, who lives on E. Leonard Rd., said he felt the proposed tower does not fit the “aesthetic appeal” of the township and he’s worried Kingsbury’s enrollment numbers may suffer if a tower is built.
“When it comes to protecting our children, please err on the side of caution when considering their health and welfare,” he said. “We ask that the money for the township does not cloud the wants and the needs of the community . . . Please consider the stigma (associated with cell towers.) Many people do believe (cell towers negatively affect people’s health). Whether the planning board considers this isn’t really the whole question. It’s also whether enough other people (share that perception).”
Several residents said they hoped the commission would deny the special use permit for the tower, “following precedence” set by the Village of Leonard’s planning commission in 2008, when it denied the approval of a special use permit for a proposed cell tower next to Leonard Elementary School.
It should be noted that Leonard’s planning commission is a completely separate body that’s part of the village government and not part of Addison Township government.
Oxford resident Bruce Meyers, who lives on the corner of Oakwood and Delano roads, spoke in favor of the tower, stating that he has come to learn through research that radiofrequency (RF) signals emitted by cell towers overshoot the immediate area and that other devices, such as cell phones, alarm clocks and electric blankets all emit larger levels of RF waves at the ground level than cell towers do.
He also said that he knew of the township’s need for improved cell service from personal experience.
“We need a tower out there someplace,” Meyers said. “(I) had a severe injury a few years ago (and) I couldn’t get a call out because we couldn’t get a signal. Just the other week . . . I had a devil of a time getting a call out . . . If the tower goes in right there, I’d be about a mile away. I’d get a signal on a regular basis.”
Kallie Roesner-Meyers, who serves on the Oxford Township Planning Commission, agreed with Meyers, who is her husband. Roesner-Meyers used the cell tower that’s going to be built in Seymour Lake Twp. Park, as an example of a largely-opposed cell tower project which now going to benefit the community. That tower was approved by Oxford Township’s planning commission in 2016 despite having a setback variance that did not meet the township’s zoning ordinance.
“I know there’s a lot of fear here. I also know there’s a need,” Roener-Meyers said. “One of the factors (the planning commission should consider) is (whether there’s a) need and it’s well-documented there’s a need. So, if you’re not going to put it there, please expedite putting (a cell tower) somewhere else because this area really does need it.”
Candace Lagest, a former Kingsbury Country Day School teacher, told members of the planning commission that she hopes they will support the Addison Township community and the school by denying the special use permit.
“You should be proud of this school in your community (and) you should be supporting it. Not hurting it,” Lagest said. “People are very upset about these decisions you guys have the power to make . . . The school’s natural beauty is what draws people in from all over the place. Tech is not a priority for that school. It is not a priority for their parents. It is not a priority for the staff. (The priority is) environmental studies. You are going to be disturbing that.”
Tiffaney Stoehr, the parent of a child at Kingsbury, told the board she will remove her child from the charter school if the proposed cell tower is approved.
“You’re going to force these people out (of Kingsbury),” she said. “New people will come. They’re not going to buy property so (the township will) have nothing left. It’s not a win-win. It’s a win to put money into the pocket of the township, but not for the future. Have you thought about what you’ll be making after taxes (if the tower were to be built)? I have great coverage with my phone and others at Kingsbury. This is not a need for us… we will not be involved in this township ever again. I will pull my child out (of Kingsbury).”
Another parent, Ivan Lubinski, told the board he was “shocked” by the Zoning Board of Appeals’ recent approval of a dimensional variance for the tower.
Township zoning ordinance requires the lot size for wireless communications towers to be a minimum of 20 acres, while the proposed tower is located on a lot area of approximately 5.24 acres.
“Why did (the township) pick a cell tower (to generate revenue)? Why didn’t you go right to a prison? There’s a lot more money to be made there . . . Maybe you guys can start a brothel. I don’t understand . . . Why did the ZBA approve this?” he said. “There are already parents who have left (Kingsbury) because of the thought that this is going to happen.”
The planning commission is expected to make a decision at its next meeting, which will be held Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. at the Addison Township Hall (1440 Rochester Rd.) in Lakeville.