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Posted: 07/03/13

Bruce planners give OK
to tower with conditions

Observer Staff Writer
      Bruce planners have given their approval for a 200-foot wireless Internet tower, but not without caveats.
       The Bruce Township Planning Commission voted 5-2 to recommend the approval of special land use request to install a 200-foot tower on township property for high-speed Internet services. Commissioners Karol Regius and Paul Okoniewski voted against it at the June 26 meeting.
       The approval comes with a number of conditions, including the submission of detailed site plans and complying with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards.
       The issue will go before the Board of Trustees on July 17 for final approval. The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) will also decide this month whether the tower's 200-foot height is permissible.
       At its last meeting, the commission asked Matt Lauer, owner of Solvaris, to look into 11 different items before it could make a recommendation on the tower. Among them was providing a detailed site plan of the property, located at 36 Mile Road and Hipp Road, as opposed to the site plan Lauer created.
       Lauer, a Bruce Township resident, requested that the requirement be waived since the township's ordinance permits the commission to do so.
       "This isn't just helping me, I mean, we're doing something that is good for the community," he said. "Frankly I thought there'd be a little bit more of a red carpet being rolled out for us to do something good for this community."
       He added it was costly to have the plans made and didn't want to pass along the expense to customers.
       "Cost sensitivity on this project is paramount," he said. "That is why nobody has come here and done anything close to what we're offering this township right now."
       Regius said it was like a "slap in the face" that Lauer asked, saying any company coming before the commission is expected to have a site plan.
       "We don't want you to spend more than is necessary, but it's necessary to have site plans," she said. "That's a part of doing business in this township."
       Chairperson Mike Tremblay said he understood the request to waive it, adding it's a bigger burden for a small business owner.
       "I'm not saying I approve of it," he said.
       Tremblay made the approval contingent on the plans, saying they should be provided within 60 days of board approval.
       Chris McLeod, the township's planning consultant, confirmed the commission could tie the approval to the site plan submission, but cautioned against waiving it.
       "I think it may be a bad precedent to set," McLeod said. "In terms of flat out waiving it, I think that may be an issue that you may come back to regret."
       Okoniewski said he preferred to see a site plan before any approval was given.
       Flights and heights
       Lauer said the Romeo State Airport deferred to the FAA's standards on whether the tower disturbed flight paths and for lighting the tower. Commissioners asked that the tower comply with FAA standards, but noted both the National Guard and Enbridge, Inc. have no issues with the tower regarding flights.
       The tower's height is above the township's 175-foot limit, meaning a variance is necessary before it can be erected. The ZBA is expected to re-examine the issue this month after three failed motions in May caused no action to be taken.
       The commission required the approval to be conditioned on the ZBA's approval and that the tower comply with ordinances. It also suggested that Solvaris name the township as an additional liability insurer.
       The remaining items from the original 11 were addressed to the commission's satisfaction, including natural screening, the structural soundness of the tower and documentation saying the technology is not hazardous to health.
       If approved in July, Solvaris will have the tower set up along with the township's tower and two rooftop repeater sites by the end of August. By the end of September, the company would have four repeaters, and a final repeater would be installed by April.
       Lauer's original plan to set up an 85-foot tower in his backyard was recommended for denial by the commission.

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