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 cell phone tower in a Mequon
back yard are a step closer to becoming law.
proposed allowing municipalities to adopt rules with a
setback requirement for cell phone 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
he hopes it advances through the Senate and on to Gov.
Scott Walker after lawmakers return from a summer
got everything I wanted in the bill – plus a little bit
more,” Ott said in an interview. “I think this pretty
much solves the problem. It certainly would solve the
problem we had here in Mequon.”
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.
got involved, 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.
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.
bill does not automatically impose the setback rules; it
permits cities, towns and villages to adopt rules that
“Hopefully all of the municipalities take advantage of
this opportunity to pass a local ordinance,” Ott said.
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.
While lawmakers will convene to pass the state budget,
the Legislature is not expected to return for a regular
session until Sept. 10. Ott said the Senate either could
simply take up the bill passed in the Assembly or
consider a similar bill on its own. He’s optimistic the
bill will continue moving toward the governor’s desk.
addition to incorporating Ott’s plan, the Kuglitsch bill
streamlines and standardizes rules that will accelerate
the deployment of small-cell technology in Wisconsin.
“Small-cell technology is the next generation of
infrastructure and, when deployed, will enable 5G
network speeds and meet the ever-rising consumer demand
for data,” according to a summary of the bill provided
by Kuglitsch’s office. “When compared to traditional
macro towers, small cells are typically added to utility
poles, traffic signals, street lights and buildings that
already exist in most urban areas.”
bill adopts “fair and consistent rules that simplify the
process and allow companies to more quickly deploy
small-cell technology,” the analysis added. Nine states
– Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Virginia, Colorado,
Arizona, Minnesota and Florida – have enacted similar
plans to build the cell tower on Chapel Hill Road have
received little attention lately, but still active.
After the tower was proposed, Mequon’s Planning
Commission met less than three minutes and unanimously
approved rules that imposed a setback requirement –
similar to what Ott proposed in his bill. The Common
Council adopted those rules without discussion. In
mid-January, the Planning Commission voted to deny the
request for the cell tower based on the new rule.
Cellusite appealed to the city’s Board of Appeals. It
later asked for a delay in that meeting. While there has
been no activity for months, Mequon City Attorney Brian
Sajdak said recently that the issue will be taken up by
the Board of Appeals in late August.
said the rules he proposed are a necessary fix to state
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.