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Posted: 10/30/13

Bruce planners seek
changes to tower limits

Observer Staff Writer
      The limit for towers in Bruce Township may rise to 200 feet if applicants can prove they require the additional height.
       The Planning Commission voted 3-1 to have its consultants create draft revisions to ordinances that would allow applicants to seek special land use requests for towers up to 200 feet in height.
       Commissioner James Carnago was the dissenting vote at the Oct. 23 meeting. Secretary Blake Taylor and Commissioners Bridget Lamberty and Ken Scott were not present.
       The amendments are scheduled to come before the commission at its November meeting.
       Talks of adjusting the township's tower height limit from 175 feet began earlier this year when Solvaris, Inc. applied to build a 200-foot wireless Internet tower on township land at 36 Mile and Hipp roads.
       When the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) denied a variance from the ordinance in August, Solvaris filed an appeal of the decision, taking it to the Macomb County Circuit Court to try and receive the variance.
       Matt Lauer, owner of Solvaris, said additional towers would be required to provide coverage if he couldn't install a 200-foot tower.
       In a letter, Supervisor Richard Cory said he wanted the tower ordinance to be re-examined by the Planning Commission in light of the dealings with Solvaris.
       "It is my thought that the higher the tower the fewer the towers are needed," Cory wrote.
       Community Planner Chris McLeod said there is some merit to the idea of having taller towers to keep fewer towers from being installed.
       "It becomes a question of once a 175-foot tower goes up, is there a significant difference between 175 and 185, or 195 or 200," he said.
       Conversely, he said the limit doesn't have to increase simply for the sake of raising it, so the township needs to consider factors like topography.
       "In looking at surrounding communities, it becomes a function of not only topography, also population density and traffic density as well," he said.
       He said Richmond and Addison townships have a limit of 199 feet, though most communities have the 175-foot limit. He said others like Washington Township have a limit around 120 feet since they are more populated.
       Chairman Mike Tremblay said the ordinance calls for limiting the number of towers to keep the area rural, but in rural areas towers are taller. He said he wanted to keep the ordinance as is, but give the Planning Commission flexibility with special land use requests for towers up to 200 feet.
       "If it requires lighting in our community I would like it to go to the ZBA," he said.
       Special land use requests are reviewed and recommended for approval by the Planning Commission to grant exceptions on projects that otherwise go against the zoning ordinance. The Board of Trustees has the final approval of a request. Otherwise, certain variances go before the ZBA for approval.
       Carnago said he voted against such changes because the topic has been addressed by the township for months, but now it is reversing its stance.
       "What we're doing now is flip-flopping, and I don't think that is a good idea," he said.
       Tremblay said both the Board of Trustees and Planning Commission voted in favor of the 200-foot tower, but the ZBA's decision to deny it "wasn't consistent with the direction the township wanted to go."
       "The ZBA decides on anything over that (200 feet)," he said. "The only difference between 175 and 200 is the 25 feet."
       Changes to the ordinance require a public hearing and approval by the Board of Trustees before going into effect.
       Trustee and Planning Commission Board Representative Paul Okoniewski said when towers are mounted with additional antennas they can go 10 percent or no more than 20 feet in height, so he suggested Solvaris could go to 195 feet based on federal regulations.
       "I don't know if that would help your (Solvaris') situation and alleviate us taking any kind of legal action," he said.
       McLeod said the provision might be subject to local regulations, and it may only apply to new towers for co-location setups as opposed to new towers.
       "I don't think it allows you to go past what your ordinance says," he said.
       Okoniewski said the township didn't initially desire towers over 200 feet due to the lighting requirements on such towers. Anything over 200 feet is required by the Federal Aviation Administration to have lights installed.

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