This story first appeared in the Appleton Fox Cities Post-Cresent, June 13, 2017.
APPLETON – The city’s denial of a special-use permit for an 85-foot cell tower in Appleton has been rejected by an Outagamie County judge.
Judge Nancy Krueger filed her decision and order Friday in the suit brought by Verizon Wireless, Central States Tower III and Professional Associates Inc.
“For this instance, it means that we would need more information to deny a permit and that information wasn’t present for the (Common) Council to base their decision on, so they really didn’t have the authority deny (the permit),” Appleton City Attorney Jim Walsh told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.
The city will determine what the statute allows it to do next, including issuing the permit or appealing Krueger’s decision, he said.
Verizon was pleased with the outcome.
“It means that we’re going to be able to deliver the wireless service that people want and deserve in that area,” said Steve Van Dinter, public relations manager for Verizon’s Great Lakes market.
Central States Tower filed an application for a special use permit to build the tower at 2718 Meade St. in April of last year. The proposal met with opposition from residents and the Common Council rejected the company’s bid, against Walsh’s advice. That denial prompted the lawsuit.
“The public opposition was based on safety fears about the tower being so close to residential homes and probable reductions in property values of homes near the tower,” Krueger wrote in Friday’s filing. “The debate also focused on whether (state statute) prevented the Common Council from denying the permit.”
A state statute adopted as part of the 2013 budget bill limits the ability of municipalities to reject the siting of a cell tower. The denial of a permit must include “substantial evidence which supports the decision.”
Van Dinter wasn’t sure if Krueger’s ruling meant construction on the cell tower could begin immediately, but said he didn’t believe there was anything impeding the company from moving forward.
The cell tower would help alleviate a capacity issue in that area, he said. During times of day when more people are on their phones, smartphone users will be able to access information much faster, he said.
“Particularly if you look at the stats, it’s staggering the number of people now who are wireless-only,” Van Dinter said, adding that the vast majority of calls to 911 are made from a wireless phone.
Alison Dirr: 920-996-7266 or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @AlisonDirr