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Verizon cell tower nixed in panel vote

Residents opposed construction near homes in west Marquette

MARQUETTE –During Tuesday’s Marquette Planning Commission meeting, a 40-foot Verizon cell tower proposed for Bluff Street in the western portion of Marquette was denied, with some area residents citing concerns about its proximity to a residential area and property values in the neighborhood.

Commissioner Michael Dunn made a motion indicating that the commission found the request for the tower does not meet the intent and requirements of the city’s land development code.

Commissioners Michael Larson, Sarah Mittlefehldt, Jessica Koehs and Chair Joy Cardillo voted “yes” to disapprove the agenda item under old business.

Commissioners Antonio Ruiz, Aaron Andres and Wayne Premeau voted “no.” The motion to deny the proposal passed 5-3.

The commission previously reviewed the Special Land Use application for the tower at its April 21 meeting and decided that the applicant Dolan Realty Advisors/Verizon Wireless did not provide sufficient information for the commission to make a decision on the relationship of the tower to the adjacent residential properties.

The property, owned by PTA Properties LLC of Marquette, is used for a business office and storage, and one of the businesses — Anderson Communications — operated a large communications tower on the property previously.

The site is slightly larger than a half-acre at roughly 22,800 square feet.

Before the commission denied the tower proposal, officials representing Verizon spoke on why they believe this location would have been appropriate.

Mustafa Siamof, a radio frequency engineer for Verizon, said the company tries to look at locations that have existing structures instead of falling back on raw land. He also noted that Verizon doesn’t make a profit from building a cell site; it makes money from a subscriber base, and in order to build a subscriber base, Verizon has to have a comprehensive network everywhere.

“Traditionally, basically — as you’re all probably aware of — we get our service out using cell sites. And the idea is that we’re putting cell sites where we have a need. And basically what we do is we try to identify areas of concern and those areas of concern can be performance-related such as areas of poor coverage which lead to dropped calls or they could be capacity issues such as slow internet, choppy video,” he said. “… The decision to add a new location is not taken lightly within Verizon. There’s a lot of costs associated with it and it’s definitely scrutinized very carefully within Verizon how we spend money to put sites in areas to serve the public need.”

Area residents who live close to the proposed tower site spoke about why they feel the tower would not be a good fit for that location and their concerns about its close proximity to residential homes.

“Perception is reality. Whether or not there’s an actual health risk issue, perception of risks (is) what drives a family’s decision whether or not to purchase a home. Based on the available research the majority of individuals — which is a 94% (majority) — do not want to live in a neighborhood with a cell tower,” Matthew Dawson said. “… We want to enjoy our lives. … I want to sit out on our deck without seeing this every time we walk outside. We want to open our windows and not hear constant humming from the tower. We want to be able to sleep at night without looking out the bedroom windows and seeing this monstrosity or the light from the tower regardless of the cutoff shields.”

During the previous planning commission meeting, several questions were addressed on why this location would be appropriate for a cell tower.

“It’s called due diligence and the due diligence that I’ve done on this site is resulting in (my finding that) this is the best site that I feel that we have available to use in this area,” Guy Stewart said, a real estate professional and representative for Dolan Realty Advisors.

The proposed wireless communications tower facility, which would include a 40-foot high monopole tower and equipment platform, was proposed for 1009 W. Bluff St., near the parcel where Red electric is located. Dunn noted that the planning commission would be ready to look at another proposal if it’s not near a residential area.

Jackie Jahfetson can be reached at jjahfetson@miningjournal.net.

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