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Cell Tower Opposition Going Down to the Wire

One Orion neighborhood is fighting hard to keep a 145-foot monopole away.

John and Renata Capuzzoli kept their young sons up late Monday to bring them to the Orion Township Board of Trustees meeting. Michelle Parker brought her kids too.

They and their neighbors were continuing their fight against a 145-foot Verizon Wireless cell tower that has been proposed for the northwest corner of Baldwin and Waldon roads.

“We feel like we’re being forced out of our home,” said an emotional Parker. “For 12 years we’ve lived in this home. And every day my kids look out in their backyard and say, ‘Mommy I don’t want to move.’ And you’re giving us no choice. … I’m asking you please to not vote yes on this.”

Parker and her neighbors have been making the case against the tower for months. They feel it will hurt their property values, dominate their view and ruin the aesthetics that brought them to the area. On Monday the board voted to delay voting on special land use and site plan approval until its next meeting, Oct. 29, in order to seek more information regarding the neighborhood’s safety concerns.

Verizon is proposing to put what it describes as a low-profile monopole on rented land. The company expects other telecommunications companies to collocate on the tower. Verizon attorney Robert LaBelle said the site is the best available for a number of reasons.

“This site constitutes the least intrusive, best-able-to-close-the-gap site,” he said. “It is located in a commercial zone surrounded by commercial properties. … It is behind a stand of trees. … This constitutes just about exactly the best possible place to put this.”

Neighbors disagree.

“The township is in a position that they are creating value for one property owner, the guy that owns that property … but the value of the properties of the people that live adjacent to that … they’re all going down,” resident Terry Morgan said.

The board and the planning commission held a joint public hearing in March, when many of the same arguments were raised. The township hired an independent engineer to assess Verizon’s application. Residents turned in 300 signatures against it.

On Verizon’s side is a federal law which limits the power of local municipalities when it comes to telecommunications towers. LaBelle argued that the law also requires them to work to close gaps in their coverage.

“Mere assertions of possible problems does not constitute evidence. It has to be substantiated,” he said. Case law, including a recent federal appeals court ruling in a West Bloomfield case, agrees, as did the township’s attorney, Dan Kelly.

“A cell tower may not be compatible anywhere,” Kelly said. “You have to ignore the argument of ‘not in my backyard.’ … It probably does not have a legitimate basis for the purpose of the telecommunications act. … The West Bloomfield case made that clear.”

Johanna Barker October 16, 2012 at 04:11 PM
.Orion Township has a habit of not paying attention to the wants of the people. Case in point Indianwood Juction party store and gas station. Those of us who are directly affected by this venture were tossed under the bus. Who wants to live next to or across the street from a gas station/drive thru restaurant? Those of us that protested this venture were turned down by the board. They said many of the residents of the township wanted this business. Of course they did because those people did not live close to this establishment. They did not have to see it, smell it or hear it. So--it passed and Mr. Enneking got to build his new business in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Well so what has happened since then? A unfinished structure just sitting there. We aren"t able to find out what is going on with the unfinished property. The township only concern is bringing in more money but at what cost? If the people feel so strongly against a project, why does the township consistantly ignore our concerns? JB Lake Orion
B Schalk October 17, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Johanna: You are right on. The same case could be said for the large CVS that has now been built on Baldwin not to mention the rezoning of the property now sitting next to it and next to Walgreen. All of a sudden everyone wants to destroy all the land and zoning that were in place when the resident's moved into the Township. The Planning Commission is even worse than the Board in that they say they are concerned for us and they are our neighbors and then they pass for a very specific few developers. Remember the contract for the new firehall. It did not go to the lowest bidder, but to the friend of the Township because they didn't believe the lowest bidder would meet his commitments and the bid difference was only a couple of thousand dollars if I remember correctly. I don't think the builder met his timeline for construction either.

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