Church Casts Out Cell Tower After Meeting Local Opposition

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U.S. Cellular had applied for a conditional use permit to build a 106-foot tower on the property of El Buen Samaritano United Methodist Church at 915 Magnolia Drive. Entering into the Waukesha, WI, town’s planning committee meeting last week, most thought the new tower was a done deal. However, GMToday.com reported that more than one “emotional plea” made by residents was so grand the church’s lay leader had a “change of heart” regarding tower support.

U.S. Cellular’s lease agreement for the tower on the county’s Expo Center grounds will expire October 31, 2017, and the company sought out the Methodist Church grounds as an ideal location for another tower. At first, the company and the church had a lease agreement that “would cost U.S. Cellular one-third of the amount it currently pays to have its tower on county grounds, according to a document filed to the commission October 25. The proposal was shelved due to time restraints about new developments and an updated affidavit. U.S. Cellular has 90 days to re-submit the affidavit.      

Dissenting remarks during the public comment section of the meeting were so overwhelming that Wisconsin Conference United Methodist Church South East District Lay Leader Imelda Roman came to the microphone and said, “the church members have changed their minds,” according to GMToday.com.

“I wanted to let my neighbors know that we have considered everything that they discussed and we had a council meeting on October 9, at 1:30 in the afternoon where we decided that we did not want this tower in our backyard, either,” Roman said. “I want to let my neighbors know we are listening and we are considering everything. I am not going to have dissension with my neighbors over a structure and over some money.”

Residents who spoke cited health issues regarding potential radiation, loss of property values, alleged lack of communication by U.S. Cellular and increased difficulties to families and wildlife, GMToday.com reported. However, Act 20, passed by the Wisconsin Legislature in 2013, states “local governments cannot deny wireless tower permits solely for aesthetic purposes. They also cannot limit the height of towers to under 200 feet or require structures to be located on public property.” District 16 County Supervisor Michael Crowley, who is also a nearby resident, said he may have to get an attorney involved. “This is ridiculous that a cell tower would even be considered or proposed at a parklike setting in an established neighborhood that’s going to significantly lower home values.”

November 14, 2016

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