Township delays decision on relay tower

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 1/19/00.

After a public hearing on a variance request for a 420-foot relay tower, the Paynesville Township Board of Supervisors approved a 60-day extension on the request at their meeting on Monday, Jan. 10. That gives them a total of 120 days to decide, starting from early December when the variance was requested.

The proposed tower would be located in the southwestern corner of the township near the Tri-County Road on property owned by David and Arlene Schmidt. A 420-foot limit would allow a 400-foot tower with lightning rods and antennas on the top to be about 16 feet higher.

The tower would have antennas and dishes on various levels, said Rick Adams, who was hired by Cellular Mobile Systems to coordinate the building of the tower. It could accommodate multiple users. Potentially up to five, Adams told the township supervisors.

The tower would need guide wires, and six are planned with anchor spots.

Supervisor Warren Nehring had inspected the site earlier in the day with Adams. The nearest structures, on two adjacent residences, were 510' and 780' away respectively. Nehring also reported that the anchors were 50' away from the road right of way. "As far as the survey and the distances, I feel they are correct, ample," said Nehring.

Because of the airport, the Federal Aviation Administration is studying the tower site, Adams told the board. The FAA can limit the height of a tower as well, depending on its impact to the airport. Cellular Mobile Systems considers another proposed tower site infeasible due to restrictions by the FAA. That site is closer to the airport.

Adams said the tower would be painted red and white for visibility in the daytime. At night, the tower will have beacons. Another option for safety would be strobe lighting.

Caroline Brown, an attorney specializing in township law, advised the board that the variance must be of the minimum amount to alleviate the problem.

More importantly, she noted that guide towers are prohibited in the township's ordinance. Only self-supporting struc-tures are permitted. Variances allow for less restrictive dimensional requirements, she said, but can not permit prohibited items. "You can't provide a variance to allow for a guide tower," she explained. "You have to change your ordinance."

Adams told the board that cellular companies face a difficult task in providing service to a rural area. Currently, Cellular Mobile Systems uses a 180' tower north of town. Coverage is fine on high ground but spotty in low areas.

In 2001, new 911 requirements will be in place for cellular companies, Adams said. Better coverage is required along with the ability to locate a phone within 150 yards in an emergency at least two-thirds of the time. Failure to cover an area properly can lead to license revocation by the Federal Communi-cations Commission, Adams told the board.

In densely populated areas, companies can afford to build several 200' towers, but the cost is prohibitive in rural areas. Especially costly is the equipment required for each tower. "It takes five 200' towers to replace one 400' tower," Adams told the board. "They need tall structures in rural areas."

The FAA study was started about the first of the year and should take between 60 and 90 days. It involves input from pilots and a public comment period. Adams said optimum coverage would require the tower to be at least 360' tall. He expressed confidence that the FAA would allow at least a 300' structure.

A height restriction below that might jeopardize the project. Adams noted that the first tower, when limited to 200', was abandoned despite a superior location.

The board asked about the tower's ownership and cohabitation of various companies on a single tower. Adams responded that Cellular Mobile Systems may have a company that specializes in towers own and operate the proposed one in Paynesville Township. Companies that own and rent space on towers are a growing trend nationwide, according to Adams, who cited one national firm that owned 800 towers two years ago and 12,000 today.

Separate companies have an easier time renting space to competing entities. In such a scenario, the township would benefit, according to Adams, because the tower company would be more interested in a multi-tenant tower. At least two tenants are needed to break even, he said, and three to make a profit. Adams said up to eight carriers might be looking for space in the area.

Shared structures could limit the number of towers in the township.

The extra 60 days gives the township until early April to reach a decision on the tower. They hope to hear about the FAA decision before deciding whether or not to change the ordinance. A public hearing would be needed to change their ordinance to allow for a guide tower.

Adams agreed to the temporary postponement and offered to visit the board again to answer more questions.

Other business
The question of how to follow up on conditional use permits was raised at the meeting of the Paynesville Township Board of Supervisors on Monday, Jan. 10.

Supervisor Don Pietsch said the process of negotiating with property owners and coming up with conditions can cause headaches. "We have to follow up to see if they've been done," he explained.

How frequently the permits should be reviewed was the biggest question facing the board. Pietsch thought the review should happen when the time limit in the permit was reached. A list of expiration dates from conditional use permits may be kept in the future.

As a start, the township will be reviewing all the conditional use permits that have been issued since Jan. 1, 1998, to see if the requirements have been carried out.

The review should be done by their annual meeting in March.

•The board authorized supervisor Warren Nehring to approve tool purchases for their maintenance shop on an as-needed basis. Township main-tenance man, Terry Kulzer, brought the board a list of equipment that he called "bare essentials" for the shop.

Nehring said equipping a shop was the logical next step after building it. "A lot of this stuff is in my shop," he said of the list presented to the board. "I might use it four times a year, but, when you need it, you need it."

Nehring will approve tool purchases as the need arises.

•The township's proposal to the school district for a $3,000 levy to buy a block of ice time at a reduced rate at the Koronis Civic Arena has not been accepted by the school district. Without such an agreement, the board said the hockey association would negotiate with the school for ice time as requested by the physical education department at the elementary school.

•The board canceled its meeting for Monday, Feb. 14. The supervisors authorized the clerk and treasurer to pay the necessary bills to meet middle of the month due dates.

The cancellation leaves the board with one scheduled meeting for the month, on Monday, Feb. 28.

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