LA FARGE - Almost 25 citizens gathered in the basement of the LaFarge Community Building on Wednesday, August 28 to discuss 5G technology and the proposed Bug Tussel cell phone towers that are planned for Vernon and Richland counties.
There was broad discussion of the potential negative health impacts of the existing and proposed cell phone towers. Topics discussed included how to protect yourself from them, and how to fight them being built.
The group’s next meeting will take place on Friday, September 27, 6 p.m., at the American Legion Tap House in Viroqua.
Juliee de la Terre of West Lima, a close neighbor of the tower that is about to be built in Richland County’s Bloom Township, reported that the Richland County Zoning and Land Information Committee had agreed to hold a public meeting where citizens can share concerns and testimony about the cell towers, and specifically about how they relate to property owners in Richland County.
That meeting will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 4 p.m., in the Richland County Board Room, Third Floor, in the Richland County Courthouse at 181 West Seminary Street in Richland Center.
Unlike Vernon County, Richland County does not hold a public input meeting before each cell phone tower permit is voted on by the Zoning Committee. Local residents have asked for such a public hearing to be held, and seem happy that their voices are being heard.
Town of Whitestown
There was discussion of the Vernon County Town of Whitestown meeting held on Tuesday, August 20, where the town board, including George Wilbur, Town Chair, and Supervisors Andy Benck and Doug Delling, voted unanimously to deny Bug Tussel a condition use permit to build a cell phone tower at the intersection of Dutch Hollow Road and Kettle Road.
According to Town Board Chairman George Wilbur, the findings of the Whitestown Board in support of their denial of a conditional use variance for construction of a cell phone tower at the intersection of Dutch Hollow and Kettle Roads were as follows:
1. There was proper notice of the hearing, as required by statutes, including a Class 1 notice in the area newspaper.
2. The entire length of Dutch Hollow Road, and particularly the section of the road adjacent to the proposed tower, is designated as a ‘Rustic Road’ pursuant to Chapter Trans-RR1, Wisconsin Administrative Code. The installation of the proposed tower is not compatible with the town responsibility to “preserve the natural and scenic characteristics of land along rustic roads” pursuant to the Land Use Protection, §Trans-RR 1.15, Admin Code.
3. The proposed site of the tower is in an area of relatively high residential density with a minimum of ten residential structures in the direct proximity of the tower and dozens more that will have a direct view of the tower. The proposed tower is not compatible with other property in the vicinity of the tower site and the scenic and rustic character of the area.
3. The proposed tower will substantially impair or diminish the uses, values and enjoyment of the properties in the vicinity of the tower site. The proposed tower will reduce property tax revenues to the town due to reduced value of the neighboring properties. The tower will diminish neighboring property values and thus reduce the residents’ use, value and enjoyment of their land, and over time the reduction in property values could have a negative impact on the town’s population and tax base.
4. The current use of the proposed tower site is actively used for agriculture crop production. The proposed tower will reduce tillable, productive cropland in the town, contrary to the Town’s Comprehensive Plan.
5. The proposed tower is contrary to the Community Vision as expressed in the Comprehensive Plan for the Town of Whitestown, adopted in 2009. The tower is incompatible with the Town’s ordinances, namely the stated purposes in Section 2(C) “To preserve the rural character of the Town”, (F) “To provide for permanent preservation of meaningful open space and sensitive natural resources”, (G) “To preserve scenic views from existing roads, and (H) “To preserve agricultural land for agricultural use by concentrating incompatible development on lands that have low agricultural potential.” The town values the rural and scenic character of the town because those are primary reasons for why townspeople choose to live in the town, and why tourists visit the Town to canoe, hike, horseback ride, and engage in other nature activities. The town values it agricultural land because agriculture is a substantial and valued part of the town’s economy.
6. The proposed tower is contrary to the Town’s Comprehensive Plan Land Use goal to: “Maintain rural lifestyle, natural beauty, and environmental quality of the township.”
7. The proposed tower will have a detrimental effect on public health, safety and general welfare.
8. The tower will not improve internet access in the town.
DECISION: Based upon the above, the application for a variance for the construction of a guy-wired tower at the intersection of Dutch Hollow and West Kettle Roads, is denied.
Furthermore: The applicant did not file a statement or affidavit as to why the applicant did not choose collocation as required by §66.0404(2)(b)6., Wis. Stats. and therefore the application is also denied pursuant to §66.0404(2)(e), Wis. Stats.
In further discussion of the actions of the Whitestown Town Board at the LaFarge meeting, several citizens who live near the proposed tower site and had been at the meeting where the conditional use permit was denied spoke up.
“We do have rights even though our county and town boards seem to believe we don’t,” Juliee de la Terre of West Lima said. “What we need to do is figure out what kinds of ordinances we can pass at the local level to protect ourselves.”
“As attorney George Wilbur pointed out at the Town of Whitestown meeting, it is erroneous to say that we don’t have power,” Randall Junemann said. “We do have power, and our attorney has found the record of when the courts sided with concerned citizens against Bug Tussel in a case regarding a proposed tower in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.”
“When your township passes ordinances or denies permits, then you make that area undesirable for these cell tower companies,” Jeff Seaborg said. “When you get a bunch of townships in a county to do it, then you can also make your county undesirable to them.”
Vernon Town of Harmony:The Town Board of Harmony Township, Vernon County, followed the recommendation of the Zoning Committee in voting unanimously to deny a permit for cell tower construction to Bug Tussel at their meeting on July 18.
Vernon Town of Stark:Juliee de la Terre and Paige Huber attended the last meeting of the Town of Stark Board. While there, they made queries about how, despite the town’s ordinance limiting cell towers to 200 feet, the town board had approved a permit for the 300-foot Munson Tower construction. According to de la Terre, the town board admitted they had “caved in,” and expressed interest in citizens bringing them a proposal for a cell tower moratorium.
Richland Town of Bloom:Juliee de la Terre reported that her attorney expects to file for an injunction on construction of the tower in Bloom Township very soon. “When we go to court for our injunction, we will have 27 members of the Amish community testifying, which is virtually unheard of,” de la Terre said. “At first when I told them about the tower, they told me that they would have to move away from it, but when I pointed out that these cell towers are being built everywhere across the nation for the FirstNet roll out, then they realized that their only real option was to fight the tower where they live now.”
The group meeting in the basement of the LaFarge Community Building brainstormed a list of things their group could do:
• put up yard signs (to be available soon);
• pass cell tower ordinances in the townships and at the county level;
• enourage your local libraries to show the movie, ‘Generation Zapped’;
• invite Matt Rothschild to speak;
• write letters to your elected representatives;
• keep the topic in the local media through writing letters to editors;• work at the town and county level to pass moratoriums on construction of cell phone towers.