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Posted: 02/26/14

LEASE BREACHES. Above, Bruce Township Zoning Board of Appeals member Gary Wardosky questions the Board of Trustees regarding breaches of a lease agreement between the township and Solvaris, Inc. when the company erected a 207-foot tower.

(Observer photo by Chris Gray)

Bruce talks lease
termination with Solvaris

Observer Staff Writer
      Bruce Township is abiding by a lease agreement with a local Internet provider in lieu of ending it following multiple violations.
       At the Feb. 19 meeting, the Board of Trustees decided to table discussions on a lease agreement with Solvaris, Inc, opting to give the company 30 days to comply instead of breaking the lease.
       A tower installed by Solvaris on township-owned property at 36 Mile and Hipp roads in December was in violation of township ordinances by standing at 207 feet tall, well over the township's 175-foot limit.
       Per the township's request, Solvaris lowered it to 160 feet as of Feb. 11, but the township also realized the tower caused multiple breaches of its lease agreement for Solvaris to use the land.
       A letter from the township dated Feb. 10 lists 13 different breaches. Aside from the height violation, the breaches included FAA violations, failure to pull electrical permits, violation of building permits, trespassing onto adjacent realty to install a camera and disregard for the safety of pilots and township residents.
       "I can't imagine if you put this in front of a judge he wouldn't agree that (Solvaris) put this township at severe risk . . . with that and knowingly did that," said Clerk Susan Brockmann.
       Board members like Trustee Mark Falker expressed their disappointment with the situation, saying they wanted to break the lease.
       "I'm not in favor of doing business with so many blatant violations, and deliberate," Falker said.
       Brockmann shared Falker's sentiments, but said the township attorney recommended giving Solvaris 30 days to comply. The lease agreement provides the 30-day clause, which she said should've provided a way to break it for violations.
       "I think we should've had an out based on negligence or something," Brockmann said. "Not the 30 days to correct all the mistakes that you knew you did."
       Supervisor Richard Cory said there was a loss of trust, but the township has to consider residents that don't have reliable Internet services when debating the lease.
       "You've got to balance putting the northern part of our township again without high-speed Internet by breaking this lease or giving the 30 days," he said.
       If the lease were to break, the township would ask Solvaris to remove the tower. Brockmann said the company has been in constant contact with the township to try and remedy the situation.
       Trustee Paul Okoniewski said the township wouldn't have measured the tower until the final inspection, so it was unaware of the height until residents brought forward their own measurements.
       "I think the township moved on it rather quickly as soon as we found out about it," he said.
       Aside from the lease, the height violation affected litigation between Solvaris and Bruce Township. Solvaris dropped a lawsuit against the township to appeal the Zoning Board of Appeal's (ZBA) decision made in August to deny a height variance.
       ZBA member Gary Wardosky asked why the Planning Commission didn't provide a Special Land Use request in the first place for the tower height. Brockmann said the commission was not permitted to do so under current ordinance.
       Treasurer Deborah Obrecht said AT&T has installed modules in the township for Internet services, but aren't willing to place them in low-density areas. She said this means towers are the only option to provide Internet given the township's topography.
       "I don't think anybody on the board views a tower as an attractive amenity to add to any parcel, but it's a need," she said.
       Okoniewski said the township should put together a strategic plan to address Internet needs by speaking with companies like Comcast, WOW and AT&T.
       Matt Lauer, owner of Solvaris, declined to comment as of print deadline.

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