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Posted: 06/04/14

Commissioners approve
tower height changes

Observer Staff Writer
      Towers in Bruce Township are closer to touching the 200-foot mark following a vote by the Planning Commission on May 28.
       Commissioners unanimously approved of recommending changes to the wireless tower ordinance to permit towers up to 200 feet with Special Land Use (SLU) requests.
       A special meeting of the Board of Trustees will be held at 5 p.m. on June 5 to discuss the tower.
       The amendments must be approved by the board before they can take effect.
       The changes follow a year-long struggle between the township and Solvaris, Inc., which is leasing property at 36 Mile and Hipp roads to house a wireless Internet tower.
       Commissioners have said the changes were made following Solvaris' attempts to gain a 200-foot variance for the tower, but also to update the ordinance and comply with federal and state laws.
       "The board had asked the commission to re-look at the ordinances given that we do have an Internet provider who has put up a tower," said Chairman Mike Tremblay. "Legislation is always changing in this area, so we had our attorney look at it and our planner look at it."
       The original ordinances only allowed towers up to 175 feet in height. With the changes, any towers over 175 feet to not exceeding 200 feet on township-owned land can be permitted through SLU approval.
       Towers above 200 feet must go before the Zoning Board of Appeals, as they must comply with federal regulations like lighting and painting.
       The amendments originally included a provision to have applicants prove that other means, such as cable or fiber-optic systems, couldn't be used in lieu of a tower. This was struck from the ordinance.
       "I think it captures what we discussed here," Tremblay said.
       Commissioner Paul Okoniewski expressed concerns that federal laws could permit the tower to go above 200 feet by 10 percent or 20 feet.
       Planning Consultant Mark Lloyd said even with this law in place, the township can still regulate heights at a local level.
       "They still can't exceed that unless they go through the Zoning Board of Appeals," he said.
       No comments were made during the public hearing regarding the amendments.
       Matt Lauer, owner of Solvaris, said he was happy with the Planning Commission'sdecision to permit 200-foot towers, as he has had to delay his plans to provide high-speed Internet.
       "We're looking forward to no more waiting," he said.
       The township is considering a change to the lease agreement with Solvaris to permit a 200-foot tower. Lauer, a Bruce resident, has said the height is required to broadcast the signal without having to erect multiple repeater sites.
       He said the township wouldn't have to worry about going above the permitted height with the Telecommunications Act that Okoniewski referenced, which allows more height for antennas.
       "We're happy with just getting our full tower installed and avoid making any modifications," he said.
       Clerk Susan Brockmann said the township is speaking with its attorney to determine whether Solvaris has to go through the SLU process or not.
       Lauer said when he spoke with the township it sounded as if such discussions were resolved. Even if the board approves of the ordinance changes, Lauer would have to wait 30 days before the changes take effect to raise his tower's height.
       The tower has received criticism from residents who believe it will cause health problems or affect the township's rural atmosphere.

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