ZBA approves variance for cell tower

Addison Township’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) affirmed its July 31, 2017 decision to approve a dimensional variance for a proposed cell tower near Kingsbury Country Day School last week in a 4-1 vote.

This approval was granted despite public opposition voiced during a second court-ordered hearing held March 8.

For background information on that meeting, visit www.oxfordleader.com and read, “Anti-cell tower crowd gets second shot at public hearing.”

The ZBA had initially approved the proposed tower’s dimensional variance in July 2017.

The second public hearing was ordered by an Oakland County Circuit Court judge as a result of an appeal which was filed in November 2017 by Addison residents Lawrence and Amanda Shelton, Kingsbury Country Day School and Kingsbury School, Inc. (the trust of Kingsbury).

The hearing was ordered by the court to specifically focus on the proposed tower’s fall zone.

Based on information presented at that hearing, the ZBA was authorized to affirm, revoke or modify its original approval of the dimensional variance.

Verizon Wireless is looking to construct a 197-foot-tall collapsible monopole on a site located in the northeast corner of Hosner and Oakwood roads, at 5020 Hosner Rd., to provide better cell coverage to the area.

The communications company first needed to obtain a variance from the ZBA for the placement of the proposed tower.

The 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.

Last week, the lone dissenting vote was cast by chair Trevor Hayward – a vote which prompted applause from many of those who were in attendance at the meeting.

Hayward had also cast a dissenting vote during the board’s initial July 31 decision, although he did not disclose his reasons for doing so.

Before issuing a vote of approval, ZBA Member Tony Spina said he believed the proposed lot would be sufficient to hold the tower’s monopole structure.

Monopoles, according to Verizon representatives, don’t simply fall over.

They’re designed to “buckle” and “collapse” upon themselves to prevent damaging what’s around them.

“The Verizon-designed analysis has since been reanalyzed by professional engineers that are not employed by Verizon or by the tower manufacturer . . . These outside structural experts concur with the analysis and conclusions provided by Verizon that this monopole tower, if sufficiently overloaded, will fail by buckling over… with no part of the tower hitting the ground, resulting in the entire tower remaining completely within the parcel that it’s built on,” Spina said. “There’s no evidence on the record which opposes these reports and studies . . . This supports the conclusion that the fall zone is sufficient as proposed.”

Although several photos of fallen cell towers were submitted for the township’s record by residents during the public hearing, it is unclear whether these examples of fallen towers were of the same design as the proposed Verizon tower.

Spina added that the proposed monopole is designed to withstand weather events including winds in excess of 89 miles per hour.

“This was presented and certified by multiple engineers,” Spina continued. “No evidence or reports to the contrary were presented. This supports the conclusion that the fall zone is sufficient as proposed. Based on the record, it is my belief that the proposed tower as designed does not present a fall risk . . . Should the tower ever fail in the manner anticipated by the structural design and analysis, the tower will fall over on itself and be totally contained within the parcel it’s built on.”

During public forum following the vote, many parents of Kingsbury students and local residents expressed “disappointment” in the board’s decision.

One person who spoke out in opposition was Addison resident Ron Renaud, who described the parcel of land as “low and swampy” and said he did not believe it would provide a sturdy base for the proposed tower.

“It’s an abomination… (the township) will have issues. You’ll have ice falling off the tower (onto) the children (at Kingsbury) . . . You are opening us up to that liability . . . This is not right, plain and simple,” Renaud said.

If the monopole is erected, the land would be leased to Verizon by the township, which would receive approximately $17,000 per year from the agreement.

It was this potential revenue to the township which Adam Stewart, an Oxford Township resident, said he believes motivated the ZBA to approve the variance.

“I would hope, as a result of this case, that perhaps the board would go ahead and, in the future, amend your (ordinance to) allow anybody that has a 5-acre parcel to be able to put a tower on their property where it may not necessarily benefit the township, but the private individual . . . You’ve denied (much smaller) variances where the township was not standing to benefit. But here, in a case where (the township) stood to benefit directly . . .you decided to simply allow because it was going to (put) money into your own township pocket,” Stewart told the board.

Katherine Carroll, a Leonard resident and parent of multiple Kingsbury students, said she worries what could happen to her children should the proposed cell tower fall.

“I feel like (my children) are in danger now,” Carroll told the board.

With the ZBA’s original decision affirmed, the township will submit its record, including information specific to the tower’s fall zone, to the circuit court along with its latest decision, according to township attorney Robert Davis.

If the court supports the ZBA’s decision, Verizon would then need to obtain a special use permit and site plan approval from the township’s planning commission in order for the proposed tower to come to fruition.


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