John and Renata Capuzzoli kept their young sons up late Monday to bring them to the Orion Township Board of Trustees meeting. Michelle Parker brought her kids too.
They and their neighbors were continuing their fight against a 145-foot Verizon Wireless cell tower that has been proposed for the northwest corner of Baldwin and Waldon roads.
“We feel like we’re being forced out of our home,” said an emotional Parker. “For 12 years we’ve lived in this home. And every day my kids look out in their backyard and say, ‘Mommy I don’t want to move.’ And you’re giving us no choice. … I’m asking you please to not vote yes on this.”
Parker and her neighbors have been making the case against the tower for months. They feel it will hurt their property values, dominate their view and ruin the aesthetics that brought them to the area. On Monday the board voted to delay voting on special land use and site plan approval until its next meeting, Oct. 29, in order to seek more information regarding the neighborhood’s safety concerns.
Verizon is proposing to put what it describes as a low-profile monopole on rented land. The company expects other telecommunications companies to collocate on the tower. Verizon attorney Robert LaBelle said the site is the best available for a number of reasons.
“This site constitutes the least intrusive, best-able-to-close-the-gap site,” he said. “It is located in a commercial zone surrounded by commercial properties. … It is behind a stand of trees. … This constitutes just about exactly the best possible place to put this.”
“The township is in a position that they are creating value for one property owner, the guy that owns that property … but the value of the properties of the people that live adjacent to that … they’re all going down,” resident Terry Morgan said.
The board and the planning commission held a joint public hearing in March, when many of the same arguments were raised. The township hired an independent engineer to assess Verizon’s application. Residents turned in 300 signatures against it.
On Verizon’s side is a federal law which limits the power of local municipalities when it comes to telecommunications towers. LaBelle argued that the law also requires them to work to close gaps in their coverage.
“Mere assertions of possible problems does not constitute evidence. It has to be substantiated,” he said. Case law, including a recent federal appeals court ruling in a West Bloomfield case, agrees, as did the township’s attorney, Dan Kelly.
“A cell tower may not be compatible anywhere,” Kelly said. “You have to ignore the argument of ‘not in my backyard.’ … It probably does not have a legitimate basis for the purpose of the telecommunications act. … The West Bloomfield case made that clear.”