UPDATE Monroe County, IL is the current king of the mountain in the battle for Valmeyer Road, winning the latest skirmish against rival AT&T. However, as the Republic-Times reports, AT&T is fighting back.
In its original proposal AT&T envisioned a 155-foot monopole at the Apex Self-Storage site in Columbia. The plan called for a blinking red light at the top to address safety concerns. However, residents at ground level complained that a cell tower at that location would be an eyesore and a detriment to property value. The concerns aired last summer pulled the matter out of the “approval” stage and put it back on the drawing board.
The Monroe County Zoning Board contends that it withdrew the approval because it violates county zoning codes. “It says no public office or principal repair or storage facility shall be maintained in connection with the site,” explained Zoning Administrator, Chris Voelker. “My interpretation is the site is the whole parcel, and there is a storage facility there. [AT&T’s] interpretation is the site is just the little site that they are leasing. My opinion is the code says you can’t have a cell tower and a storage facility on the same site.”
In response, AT&T has filed a lawsuit challenging Monroe County’s interpretation. “The county’s interpretation of its ordinance effectively prohibits telecommunications carriers from installing wireless towers on a substantial amount of commercial properties, which is the very type of property that the Illinois Counties Code explicitly prefers for tower installations,” states AT&T in the lawsuit.
AT&T refers to the county’s withdrawal as “erroneous,” a claim which Monroe County denies. The lawsuit alleges that in asserting their reading of the zoning codes, the county put itself in violation of state and federal mandates. It says the site was selected as the best choice after considering other options in the area and would address notable service gaps.
“There is no evidence, much less substantial evidence in a written record, that AT&T would be maintaining a storage facility ‘in connection with’ the site,” stated attorney Luke Maher, representing AT&T. “The storage facility is located elsewhere on the parcel containing the site and has no commercial or operational relationship with AT&T facility.”