Plan commission to hear cell tower debate
The Janesville Plan Commission will hold a public hearing at its 6:30 p.m. meeting Monday before deciding whether to allow U.S. Cellular to build a 120-foot tower on the grounds of the school at 25 S. Pontiac Drive.
This is the fourth attempt U.S. Cellular has made in five years to build a tower on Janesville’s east side and the second attempt to build one on Marshall grounds. The company also tried to erect a tower at Harris Ace Hardware, 2720 E. Milwaukee St., and, most recently, on the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds.
“U.S. Cellular has been having extreme difficulty with service on the east-side area,” said Gale Price, building and development services manager.
The company has offered the Janesville School District an initial payment of $10,000 plus $2,000 a month to lease the land for the tower. The monthly payments would increase by 3.5 percent a year.
The school board approved the deal Sept. 11, but it’s contingent on plan commission approval of a conditional use permit.
The city has heard from some neighbors who oppose the plan for aesthetic and health reasons, Price said. Some residents fear the tower would interfere with television or radio functions or emit dangerous radiation.
But the Federal Communications Commission has said cell towers present no risk of radiation exposure, and federal law prohibits local governments from considering such concerns when deciding whether or not to allow one, Price said.
“I believe there are probably some other schools of thought, but until the federal government says otherwise, we will not entertain that discussion,” he said.
Instead, the commission will decide whether the tower is aesthetically appropriate and whether the company has exhausted options for using existing structures.
“Basically that’s what it boils down to,” Price said. “Is it ugly? Does it fit in with the surrounding area? Is it away from homes?”
Price is recommending the commission approve the conditional use permit. If it does, the company would next apply for a building permit, he said.
If you go
What: Public hearing on the proposed cell-phone tower at Marshall Middle School, 25 S. Pontiac, Janesville.
When: 6:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Janesville Municipal Building, 18 N. Jackson St.