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Green light for cell tower at Marshall

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Ann Fiore
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
— Marshall Middle School soon will have a new tenant in its backyard: a 120-foot cell-phone tower.

Voting 4-3 Monday, the Janesville Plan Commission overrode opposition from neighbors and narrowly approved a conditional-use permit for the tower, which U.S. Cellular will build.

The tower will be a paying tenant. U.S. Cellular will give the school district $10,000 plus $2,000 a month to lease land for the tower. The district also would get $200 a month for each additional carrier that uses it.

The company still needs a final blessing from the school district and a building permit from the city.

Since 2002, U.S. Cellular has tried four times to build a tower on Janesville’s east side—twice at Marshall Middle School, 25 S. Pontiac Drive.

The company said it needs the new tower to improve cellular coverage on the east side.

This time, city staff recommended the tower because U.S. Cellular had met several criteria.

The company had exhausted its options for locating on another tower, said Gale Price, the city’s building and development services manager. The proposed tower also would sit 500 feet from a major street, would have proper setbacks and would be screened by a brick wall that matches the school.

“It’s one of the few open sites on the east side,” Price said.

A handful of neighbors wasn’t buying it.

They called the tower a “monstrosity.” They worried that students would get hurt playing around the tower and that the brick enclosure would prevent drivers from seeing children who darted into the street.

John Kearney, 2819 E. Milwaukee St., said he had a petition with nearly 60 signatures from tower opponents. Many were elderly and wouldn’t come downtown to a public hearing, he said.

“The meeting should have been in the community,” Kearney said.

Plan commission Chairman Paul Williams agreed, saying he was disappointed that a neighborhood meeting hadn’t been held.

Williams and commission members Nancy Zolidis and Lori Hanewold opposed the tower. Meredith Helgerson, Tim Wellnitz, Anda O’Connell and Stephen Werner voted for it.

Zolidis, who owns a cell phone, said she knows the east side has coverage issues.

During a weekend curling club event at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds, heavy cellular traffic limited her phone calls to emergencies only.

But Zolidis said she’s more concerned about safety and a better location for the tower.

“We’re used to having cell phones,” she said. “When we can’t get a call out for a few minutes, maybe that’s an inconvenience we can live with.”

U.S. Cellular didn’t get everything it wanted Monday.

The conditional-use permit requires that the tower be a stealth mount, a simple pole with no transmission panels sticking out.

Ron Zechel of U.S. Cellular said that type of pole would limit the number of carriers and the school district’s revenue.

But Price said the design balances aesthetics and the company’s needs.

Last updated: 9:33 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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