Families in one Appleton neighborhood say they're feeling betrayed by city leaders tonight.
The emotions come after a cell phone tower proposal is one step closer to a full vote, after unanimous approval by the City Planning Commission.
But aldermen say their hands are tied, and the alternative is a lawsuit against the city.
District 14 alderman Christopher Croatt says their options are extremely limited, as many local ordinances regarding tower construction were voided by a state statute, passed in 2013, that essentially gives up local control on where cell towers can be built.
Specifically, state lawmakers made it so the statute would override the vast majority of restrictive municipal ordinances based on health, safety, property value, and aesthetic concerns.
The site for the 85-foot tower, requested by Verizon Wireless, can be found along the 2700 block of N. Kesting Court, in Appleton
A half-dozen wooden stakes in a grassy lot mark where it will stand if approved
They also come within 15 feet of neighbor Ryan Vissers's home.
"And the 85' cell tower would be about 38 feet away from my north wall," adds a frustrated Vissers.
Vissers and other neighbors have been fighting Verizon Wireless's proposed tower for weeks, with varying reasons.
They include concerns over property values dropping "by 20%-50%" for nearby homes, though city assessors say any decline in assessed value would be in the single digits.
"My assessed value, they're saying [a reduction of] 2%-5%," says neighbor Roderick Roovers, "I'll guarantee you, I wouldn't buy a house... that was next to a cell tower."
Vissers says he's concerned for his personal safety.
"I mean, we just had some tornadoes a couple years ago come down [Highway] OO," adds Vissers, referring to assurances from those backing the project that the tower would fall onto itself in the case of an unexpected collapse. "They'll sit and preach that these towers are perfect, and they're self-collapsing. What happens if it did fall, and hurt me or one of my family members?"
"Their 5-month-old daughter is going to sleep 38 feet away from the middle [of the tower]," says Roovers, "that's just too close!"
Green bay neighbors have been fighting a similar proposal near N.E.W. Lutheran High School for months.
But aldermen in both cities say the state statute is airtight "to the point [where] I've been looking for... the one, call it a loophole... in there to oppose this," says Alderman Croatt, frustrated after tonight's vote, "but there's just really not anything in there. They've covered everything."
Meanwhile, Vissers says he's disappointed the Planning Commission doesn't seem willing to challenge the proposal while facing the threat of a lawsuit from Verizon if the project is denied.
"If we need to get a lawyer involved, we'll get a lawyer involved," adds Vissers.
According to state statute, any proposal made for a cell tower needs to be reviewed by the city within 45 days, and an action must be taken within 90 days.
If no action is taken, the city could be sued by the interested third party.
But changes to the statute will have to be done by state lawmakers.
"People need to start contacting their state Representatives," says Croatt.
We spoke with one of the property owners of the site where the tower would be built. He declined an on-camera interview, but did tell NBC26 he works next to the site, and doesn't think his health, or safety, are at risk.
The proposal now goes to the full Appleton City Council next Wednesday.
Any potential changes to the state statute wouldn't come until next legislative session, if lawmakers are pressured by Wisconsinites enough to revisit it, that is.
Meanwhile, Roovers says he's at least willing to re-think his family's phone deal with Verizon.
"My wife has Verizon, which, I'll be honest with you," says Roovers, "we're going to look at [changing]."
There is also a petition neighbors have started, asking Gov. Walker to stop the cell tower proposal.
Source : nbc26.com