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Posted: 02/12/14

Internet tower violated
Bruce height ordinance

Observer Staff Writer
      Measurements have confirmed that an Internet tower went beyond Bruce Township height limits.
       Officials asked Solvaris, Inc. to comply with tower height ordinances after learning that the tower it installed on township land at 36 Mile and Hipp roads was 32 feet over the 175-foot limit.
       As a result, Solvaris has dropped its appeal of the Zoning Board of Appeal's (ZBA) decision to not grant a height variance for the tower.
       Solvaris installed the tower in December with the intent of providing wireless Internet service to residents. A lease agreement was struck with the township in August to use the land, but only if the tower was 175 feet or lower.
       Residents Rich and Connie Schapman brought forward what they said were professional measurements of the tower during the Jan. 29 Planning Commission that showed it above 200 feet. The township followed up by having its engineers measure the tower. Clerk Susan Brockmann said the results revealed the tower to be 207 feet tall.
       "We were very concerned and surprised," she said.
       A letter was sent to Solvaris last week asking it to comply with the ordinance and lease agreement in 30 days. Following talks with Solvaris representatives, Supervisor Richard Cory said the tower was expected to be lowered to 160 feet as of Feb. 11.
       "We're just very disappointed that it was put up 207 and violated the lease," he said. "That is no way to do business."
       He said the township notified local, state and federal aviation groups and airports of the tower. Federal Aviation Administration regulations state towers above 200 feet should be lighted, which the tower didn't have.
       Cory said as of Feb. 10, Solvaris stated it will drop the lawsuit against the township. When a height variance for the tower was denied in August, Solvaris filed an appeal of the ZBA's denial to take the decision to Macomb County Circuit Court.
       Matt Lauer, owner of Solvaris, could not be reached for comment.
       Brockmann said the permits and site plan for the tower listed the height at 175 feet. She said the township was going to measure it as part of the final inspection, but the measurements brought in by the Schapmans took place before that occurred.
       "This isn't something where we would've never checked it," she said. "Part of the final process for the building department does include a measurement."
       Cory said the township is seeking legal advice on how to proceed with addressing the lease agreement to determine if any parts of it were violated.
       "If this would've been done right according to the lease, it would've been a great thing for the township," he said.
       The discovery comes on the heels of the Planning Commission recommending approval on Jan. 29 of amendments to the tower ordinance that would allow the commission to approve of 176-200 foot towers through Special Land Use requests.
       Any towers more than 200 feet will go before the ZBA. The amendments will be discussed at the Feb. 19 Board of Trustees meeting.

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