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Boyceville adopts telcom tower special exception of 2+ acres

By LeAnn R. Ralph

BOYCEVILLE  — A change in state law has prompted Boyceville to adopt a new telecommunications equipment ordinance that allows towers as a special exception on lots larger than two acres.

A state law passed in 2013 has all but eliminated the ability of municipalities to regulate the location of telecommunication towers, said Patrick Beilfuss of Cedar Corporation at the Boyceville Village Board’s February 8 meeting.

According to state law, telecommunications towers can be located in any zoning district as long as the tower meets the setbacks for that particular type of zoning, he said.

In addition, the new state law does not allow municipalities to regulate the height, Beilfuss said.

Municipalities are prohibited from setting a height restriction up to 200 feet. After 200 feet, the proposal would be reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration, he said.

The only way municipalities can legally control the location of telecommunications towers is by making the towers a special exception and allowing them to be on lots more than two acres in size, Beilfuss said.

Before the change in state law, most municipalities that had telecommunications ordinances required the setback from the lot line to be equal to the height of the tower, he said.

The setback requirements ensured that if the tower fell as the result of a tornado, high winds, ice accumulation or some other disaster, that it would fall within the lot where it was located and not on top of a house, a school, a business or other property.

Under current state law, a 200-foot telecommunications tower could be located in a backyard in a residential area, and as long as it meets the setbacks of the zoning, it would be permissible.

There is little municipalities can do to stop telecommunications towers in undesirable areas other than making their location a special exception on a parcel greater than two acres, Beilfuss said.

According to the state statute, if municipalities had a telecommunications ordinance in place on July 2, 2013, and the ordinance was not in compliance with state law, it became unenforceable, Beilfuss said.

“It takes away a lot of your ability to control how they affect the community,” he said.

In response to a question from a village board member asking why the state Legislature would ever think the law was a good idea, Beilfuss said a telecommunications company had written the law, and it had been attached to the budget and passed with the budget bill.

The lease for AT&T’s telecommunications tower in Boyceville expires in November.

Village Trustee Herb Dow said the village has not heard from AT&T about renewing the lease.

The amended ordinance contains three different fees that are the maximum allowed by state law, Beilfuss said.

The fees are $3,000 for a conditional use permit for a new tower, $500 to co-locate telecommunications equipment and $20,000 in surety bonds, he said.

The Boyceville Village Board unanimously adopted the new mobile services support structures ordinance following a public hearing on the proposed ordinance.

No members of the public attended the meeting to speak either for or against the proposed ordinance.