St. Stephen the Martyr - Cell Tower Proposal

The Village is reviewing a proposal to install a wireless tower facility on property owned by St. Stephen the Martyr Lutheran Church at 6101 South 51st Street.

The state legislature significantly altered local authority to regulate cell tower siting in 2013.  In 2013 as part of the biennial state budget bill, the State Legislature created section 66.0404 of the Wisconsin Statutes, which clearly imposed new and significant limits on the manner and extent to which a city, village, town or county may use its zoning authority to regulate the siting and modification of cell towers.

Section 66.0404 only allows cities and villages to use their zoning authority to regulate cell towers and only if the zoning regulations do not violate the parameters set forth in the law.  Notably, there are significant restrictions in the law on traditional and well-established local zoning powers. 

Also, the classic feature of zoning is a regulatory authority that limits the land use activities in particular areas.  Local zoning codes specify where residential, commercial and industrial uses and other activities may or may not be conducted.  Separating land use activities to diminish the negative impacts of incompatible land uses in the same location or area is the essence of zoning and a primary focus of local zoning authority.

The cell tower siting statute eliminates this essential feature of zoning.  Section 66.0404(4)(c) of the law provides that a city or village may not “enact an ordinance prohibiting the placement of a mobile service support structure in particular locations within the political subdivision.” Accordingly, cell towers, unlike other land uses, and no matter how incompatible with any existing land uses, cannot be restricted to specific zoning districts.  Accordingly, every city or village neighborhood is now subject to cell tower installation and local authority to truly “zone” cell towers is, at best, superficial.

We are in the middle of the review process for the proposed tower.  The Village will insure that the tower complies with state and local law.  Unfortunately, state law does not allow us to restrict the location of cell towers based on a list of factors, including public health concerns. 

You are welcome to attend any of the public meeting to be held on this matter. 

The Plan Commission reviewed this matter on Wednesday, January 11th at 7:00 PM and a public hearing was held during the Board of Trustees meeting on January 17th.  At the January 17th meeting the public hearing was closed on this matter, but the Village Board tabled action on this item until the February 7th Village Board meeting at 7:00 p.m.  On February 7th the Village Board denied the special use permit request based on a number of reasons listed in Resolution R2017-02.