2017-04-20 / Front Page

Grand Blanc Township postpones call on cell tower

By Paula Kay Schmidt
810-452-2647 • pbarbee@mihomepaper.com

GRAND BLANC TWP. — In a two step process, the Planning Commission recently recommended the township board approve the conditional rezoning of a three-acre parcel at Maple and Genesee Road from Single Family-R3 to Low Density Multifamily (LDM) for the construction of a cell phone tower.

Residents at the planning meeting made several objections (see story in the April 13 edition of the Grand Blanc View) and some repeated those at the board of trustee’s meeting last Thursday; despite the tower itself being approved via the Special Land Use portion.

Normally, as township attorney

David Lattie explained, the board wouldn’t even be seeing a case for a cell phone tower as they are normally a straight approval through the planning process. However, due to what he called an anomaly in the zoning ordinance, cell towers are not allowed within 500 feet of a single family zoned area without a variance. Even if the re-zoning is approved, the parcel it sits on will still be surrounded by single family zoned land.

Because of this, and federal restrictions in the Telecommunication Act which prohibits local municipalities from restricting such facilities, Lattie said the board’s hands are effectively tied into approving the structure as long as the applicant can prove a ‘demonstrated need’.

Despite this, Trustee Joe Massey requested a delay in the decision because he said he wanted to reach out to the community in the area and see what they feel and think about it. He feels it could affect the outcome even though the objections previously raised by residents are not something the decision can legally be based on.

Lattie also told the trustees that from a legal perspective, they had no clear and valid reason for denying the application as it currently stands, and a denial on their part could end up in court. Resident Damien Lipe, who expressed objections in the planning meeting, re-said the same objections as well as a desire for the board to have a third-party verification of Verizon’s expressed need for the tower.

Additionally, Lipe expressed concern over the SLU being approved prior to the re-zoning, which can be done in two separate processes but in this case, due to a 90-day federal timeline of approval, Lattie recommended the planners combine the cases and make the SLU contingent upon the rezoning, which it did.

Lipe also had concerns about the data provided by Verizon being valid, and Verizon attorney Robert LaBelle countered they had no reason to provide invalid data as it was an expensive proposition to build the tower and they wouldn’t do so without a valid reason.

LaBelle also added there was no need for a third party verification of the data as the implication would be an assumption that Verizon was being untruthful and they had no reason to untruthful as they would not spend that kind of money without reason.

In other business, the board also approved a similar case for the Food Castle at the corner of Grand Blanc and S. Dort Hwy. The parcel was rezoned from Neighborhood Commercial to General Commercial in order to add two gas pumps to the existing four.

Additionally, the pumps and canopy will be moved, and the convenience store building will be torn down. Customers will use the Food Castle building for payment of gas and convenience shopping in its place.

An important joint meeting primarily to discuss funding of the fire department will be held between the Grand Blanc City Council and Grand Blanc Township Board of Trustees, at the Senior Center, on April 27 at 7 p.m.

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