1/27/2011 9:09:00 AM Split vote approved 150' cell tower on edge of scenic riverway
This is an example of just one of several approaches to “stealth” tower design that can help a unit blend into its surrounding landscape. Other stealth towers can be built to appear to look like grain silos, church steeples, even cactus. (See story on cell tower near St. Croix Riverway.)
BY DENISE MARTIN
The Chisago County Board voted 3-2 last week to allow a 150 foot tall monopole cell phone tower to be built by AT&T in Franconia Township.
Several e mails and letters were received by the County Board requesting the tower be constructed using "stealth" design methods that mimic evergreen foliage, in order to camouflage the tower, but this was not part of the permit approval.
The National Park Service and St. Croix River Association expressed concern that the tower will be visible from the national and scenic riverway surface at certain locations south of the Franconia Landing-- and that it will be seen above the treeline from the Wisconsin side of the national and scenic riverway.
The chair of the St. Croix River Association wrote that there are experts willing to help the county do an analysis on "others sites, less sensitive" where the tower could be situated and not impact the viewshed. "The park service is equipped to make such an analysis." Chairman Dan Willius added, "...considering what is at stake, the special nature of the St. Croix valley culture and identity, this seems like a reasonable approach."
Board Chair Lora Walker offered a revised approval action requiring the stealth design be used and limiting the height to not more than 15 feet taller than the surrounding pine tree vegetation. She handed the gavel to vic-chair George mcMahon to introduce her motion.
Commissioner Rick Greene offered the second "to see what this is all about" but after some discussion, he withdrew his second. Commissioner Ben Montzka seconded to keep debate on the Walker resolution open; but Montzka could see the majority vote forming against Walker's additional permit conditions and withdrew his second.
On the final vote approving the regulation-style tower as proposed, Montzka and Walker were the no votes.
Montzka stated, "The St. Croix Riverway is, in my opinion, only precious if we treat it so."
Commissioner Mike Robinson argued that he'd rather "live next to" a communications tower than a sculpture park, a reference to the Franconia Sculpture Park which is located next to where the tower is approved (site is the Gerald Vitalis parcel on Highway #95.)
"I don't think one more tower will hurt the tourist trade," said Robinson.
Commissioner George McMahon made the motion authorizing the permit as recommended by the county planning commission, but he said he hopes A T & T and the township will "work together" on addressing the appearance of the tower. The county zoning staff had reminded the Board that the tower applicant had met all county ordinance requirements and planning commissioners had voted unanimously to okay the application.
In voting no, Montzka added, "This has not been done before (a tower within the riverway viewshed.) We should be voting no. I was hoping we could send this back to the planning commission."
A National Park Service staff member, neighboring property owners and river association members were seated in the audience, but this was not a "public hearing" and no comments were invited. The public hearing was held by the county planning commission January 6.