Cell tower OKed despite opposition

It appearsAddison Township is going to get that Verizon monopole cell tower after all.
At its 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14 meeting, the Addison Twp. Planning Commission met to consider the placement of a Verizon monopole at 5020 Hosner Rd., a discussion that has now gone on at the commission level for over a year and in entirety for over a year and a half. This meeting focused on whether or not Verizon met Addison’s zoning requirements and the approval of Verizon’s site plan application.
Over the past year, the proposed 195 ft. monopole has met the approval of Addison’s Zoning Board of Appeals with little disagreement among board members and has made steady progress with the planning commission. There have been appeals made by both Kingsbury Country Day School and parents who have children attending the school. Both were dismissed by Michigan judges.
Every meeting surrounding the monopole has hosted Kingsbury parents and community members who strongly oppose it, saying it is unsafe, could cause cancer, fall over or scare their children because of its size. Some meetings have hosted as many as 20 concerned parents.
Verizon representative John Crane has met the opposition with information contracdicting the parents’ claims, saying the monopole would be very unlikely to fall on Kingsbury’s playground, which will be 90 ft. from the tower. The American Cancer Society also concludes people are exposed to more radiation when using a cellphone than they are when standing near a cellphone tower and that, presently, there is little reason to believe cellphone towers increase the likelihood of cancer.
Following the agreement that Verizon had met Addison’s zoning requirements, the planning commission was left to decide if it would accept Verizon’s site plan application. Linda Gierak, who serves as a trustee on the township board, was directed to leave the meeting room per the recommendation of township attorney Robert Davis because the Verizon cell tower issue must still go before the township board and he didn’t want that night’s discussion influencing her opinion.
Discussion circled, once again, around the safety of the pole. Commission member Chuck Sargent expressed concern regarding the slip joints on the monopole and the increased fall zone with the proposed addition of the 4-foot lighting rod, which would put the monopole just 1 ft. under the township’s height limit.
“Personally, I walked the site today,” Sargent said. “And I observed that there was no issue with the site… (But with the addition of a lightning rod) we would have a fall zone of 94 ft. instead of 90 ft. So the question I have is, what impact does that have?”
To this, Crane said Verizon has never had a monopole failure that hit the ground and that Verizon’s slip joints are designed in a way that make them difficult to even be manually taken apart, so there is little likelihood the monopole would break under pressure. It would be made to withstand 89 mph winds.
Following that discussion, commission member Gene Louwaert asked that the resolution to accept Verizon’s plan be amended so pine trees instead of the proposed arborvitae trees be planted around the monopole, as pines are less likely to attract deer. Louwaert also suggested Verizon talk to Kingsbury about how it could benefit the school.
“Is there any chance that maybe Verizon could put a step forward and work something out with the school or maybe help them improve their playground site or move their playground site some place to where there isn’t this much concern about the fall zone?” Louwaert asked.
Crane said Verizon would be willing to speak to concerned residents and Kingsbury parents at any time and noted that Louwaert was the first person to suggest Verizon and Kingsbury find a middle ground to agree on during the year and a half in which this has been discussed.
After concerns and questions from the commission were discussed, Verizon’s site plan with four conditions was accepted unanimously with a 6-0 vote.
Following the vote, the public was welcomed to voice any concerns they had. Though several Kingsbury parents stood to disapprove the commission’s actions, Leonard resident William Carroll and Ortonville resident Ivan Lubinski encouraged the commission to revisit the reasons they voted against a T-Mobile tower in 2009.
“I noticed four of you (currently on the commission) were present at that meeting (in 2009), when there was a cellphone tower supposed to go on Drahner Rd.,” Carroll said. “Five of the six reasons you denied it are exactly the same reasons you should deny this one. I don’t understand why you could deny that one and approve this one.”
In 2009, the T-Mobile tower was turned down 6-1 due to concerns about the aesthetic appeal of the site, which was in a residential area; the idea that a monopole would be developed in an area that doesn’t want to be developed and residents’ general unhappiness with the idea. In the meeting minutes of that Jan. 13, 2009 discussion, the biggest concern was the unappealing visual of a cellphone tower in a rural area. It was also mentioned the tower would only service T-Mobile customers.
Today, the visual concern of a cell phone tower in rural Addison is still a concern with residents. However, Verizon is known to share cell phone towers with AT&T, which shares its coverage with T-Mobile. So, this new monopole could benefit many more people than the 2009 tower could have. Kingsbury is also not in a residential area, having virtually nothing across the street from it.
Though complaints persist, the proposed monopole is in a different set of circumstances than T-Moobile was in 2009.
Aside from aesthetic concerns, worries regarding safety were again mentioned by parents. Lubinski expressed concerns on the RF radiation released by cellphone towers and that the tower will be so close to his children’s playground. He also said he feels the commission is not following the law.
“You don’t care, you want the money and we both know it,” Lubinski said. “So what am I supposed to do?… Our local government is not operating in our best interests… Is anybody but the township going to get money?”
It should be noted that, in the discussions thus far, the planning commission and zoning board have agreed the monopole would fit within the zoning requirements laid out in the Addison Twp. Code, which defines the township’s laws.
Lubinski was mistaken that Addison parks and rec. will receive all of the funds gained from the tower, but still is concerned that the township will benefit from the monopole. The funds will go into a general fund, allowing the city to make purchases or improvements without using tax payer dollars. Commission member Sargent also tried to quell Lubinski’s worries over safety.
“I respect your position, I respect your comments,” Sargent said. “I also have respect for the school and I would think that there are emergency plans that if sirens go off and winds are approaching 85 to 115 mph that, potentially, could create a tower break that the children would be removed from any play area that might be in range of the monopole. I’m not being negative, I’m being positive.”
Lubinski also expressed concerns that the mere sight of the monopole being so close will scare the children at the school.
Though some members of the community and the commission still disagree, commission member Carol Beens tried to assure everyone present on Aug. 14 that she and her colleagues take their responsibility to make this decision seriously.
“I would like everybody to know that we’ve all given a lot of actual thought to this and that (I’ve) read all the emails,” Beens said. “I was a teacher for 35 years, so I don’t take this lightly.”
This discussion is expected to move to the Township Board at its Monday, Sept. 17 meeting.