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Posted: 05/28/14

UP TO 200 FEET. At left, the Solvaris, Inc. wireless Internet tower located at 36 Mile and Hipp roads currently stands at 160 feet, but could receive approval from Bruce Township officials to go to 200 feet as early as next week. The tower was installed in December, but officials discovered months later it was 207 feet, above the current limit of 175 feet, and required Solvaris to lower it. The tower has been a point of contention for the past year, with residents saying it detracts from the rural atmosphere, while others say it is necessary for receiving high-speed Internet services. Matt Lauer, owner of Solvaris, has said the 200-foot height would allow for the signal to navigate the township's topography without having to install multiple repeater towers to increase the signal's area. His initial request to the township for a height variance was denied by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

(Observer file photo)

Bruce officials may allow Solvaris tower at 200 ft.

Observer Staff Writer
      Bruce officials may agree to allow an Internet tower to reach 200 feet as early as next week.
       At its May 21 meeting, the Board of Trustees agreed on holding a special meeting in June to change the contract between the township and Solvaris, Inc. to permit a taller height.
       The adjustment is contingent upon the Planning Commission approving of tower height ordinance amendments that would allow towers 176-200 feet tall through Special Land Use requests.
       The commission will hold a public hearing on the ordinance amendment May 28 during its regular meeting.
       Matt Lauer, owner of Solvaris, is leasing township-owned land at 36 Mile and Hipp roads to house a tower for wireless Internet services. He asked for a 200-foot tower to bypass problems caused by the township's topography, but was denied by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
       Lauer appealed the decision, but later dropped it when the township discovered in February that the tower was 207 feet tall, above the current limit of 175 feet. The township made Solvaris shorten it to 160 feet.
       However, township officials are now determining if his and other towers can go to 200 feet.
       Supervisor Richard Cory said the township attorney recommended changing the contract with Solvaris so the tower will not exceed 200 feet instead of 175 feet.
       Cory said should the Planning Commission approve of the ordinance amendments, the board could hold a special meeting next week to make the proposed contract change.
       "We're going to try and expedite this if we can," Cory said.
       Treasurer Deborah Obrecht suggested the board grant approval of the contract amendment contingent on the Planning Commission's decision.
       Trustee Paul Okoniewski argued such a motion, saying there were other changes the attorney brought up in the past he would like to see addressed.
       "I'm not prepared to vote on it, not tonight," he said. "If we have another meeting to approve it then I'll bring the comments."
       The agreement between Solvaris and the township states the lease would be approved for five consecutive periods of five years following an initial seven years. Okoniewski previously criticized the contract for not giving the township a chance to review the terms before renewal.
       No motion was made on the agreement changes.
       Matt Lauer, owner of Solvaris, said he hopes the Planning Commission meeting goes well, but expressed doubts about amending the agreement.
       "I don't think this is a time to open up the contract," he said.
       Lauer said he would have to wait 30 days for the ordinance changes to take effect, but after that he would put together a timeline for construction.
       Solvaris is charged $200 a month to lease the land from the township, and will provide two wireless "hot spots" in the township.
       Andy Meinhard, a resident living near the tower, continued to oppose the tower, saying he believes the township isn't charging Solvaris what it should.
       "I want the township to be aware of the sweetheart deal that Mr. Lauer got as far as the lease of the property compared to what other townships in the area are leasing out their property for the same purpose," he said.
       He said he understood the need for Internet services in the area, but encouraged the board to scrutinize the contract and any potential health risks the tower could cause before approval.
       Following the meeting, Cory said it may be a good deal, but the township is trying to provide a needed service to its residents.
       "We shouldn't be in the business to make money here," he said.
       In following the agreement, the board voted 5-0 at a special meeting held April 29 to allow to co-locate on the tower without any fees.
       The agreement states any co-locations be approved by the board prior to installation. Clerk Susan Brockmann said is the original company Solvaris partnered with last year to provide the wireless Internet service, so the township isn't viewing it as a new business.
       "We didn't feel that it was a monetary item to discuss or have any special approval," she said on April 29.

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