Ott's cell tower plan clears Assembly
Bill introduced after Mequon controversy

By Gary Achterberg - News Graphic Staff

July 13, 2017

MEQUON - The ideas in a bill state Rep. Jim Ott introduced this winter in response to a company's plan to build a 195-foot-tall cellphone tower in a Mequon back yard are a step closer to becoming law.

Ott proposed allowing municipalities to adopt rules with a setback requirement for cellphone towers on residential lots or areas zoned residential. For instance, that 195-foot tower would have to be built at least that far from a property line.

Ott's plan later got rolled into a wider-ranging bill related to wireless facilities. That bill was approved by the Assembly last month. The Mequon Republican said this week he hopes it advances through the Senate and on to Gov. Scott Walker after lawmakers return from a summer recess.

"I got everything I wanted in the bill - plus a little bit more," Ott said. "I think this pretty much solves the problem. It certainly would solve the problem we had here in Mequon."

A kerfuffle started when Indiana-based Cellusite announced plans to build the cell tower for T-Mobile on a lot at 6131 W. Chapel Hill Road, which is just northwest of Green Bay and Highland roads. The city had few teeth to stop the tower, despite the objections of neighbors. A provision in the 2013 state budget takes most power away from municipalities to regulate the location of cell towers.

Ott spoke with T-Mobile representatives and ultimately drafted his bill. Most of his ideas were incorporated into the bill that the Assembly passed on a voice vote June 21 that was introduced by state Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin, who is chairman of the Assembly's Energy and Utilities Committee.

Ott said his proposal was enhanced because language in the Kuglitsch bill includes lots that are adjacent to residential lots. For instance, it would apply to a commercial property adjacent to one zoned residential.

The bill does not automatically impose the setback rules; it permits cities, towns and villages to adopt rules that do that.

"Hopefully all of the municipalities take advantage of this opportunity to pass a local ordinance," Ott said.

The Kuglitsch bill, which lists state Rep. Rob Brooks, R-Saukville, as one of its cosponsors, does not have an identical bill already introduced in the Senate. However, state Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, signed onto the Assembly version.

Ott said the rules he proposed are a necessary fix to state law.

"You just can't have situations like we had here in Mequon where somebody wakes up one morning and 25 feet from their lot line, there's a cell tower," he said.