Plan commission to rule on tower at March meeting; U.S. Cellular still hoping for deal on existing site

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At least for now, a new cell tower will not be constructed in a residential Waukesha neighborhood that has protested against it.

The city's plan commission on Wednesday, Jan. 25, approved an extension of the review process for the conditional use permit for the tower, offered by U.S. Cellular, which would erect the 106-foot structure near Buen Samaritano United Methodist Church at 915 Magnolia Drive. The commission is scheduled to review the conditional use application again on March 22.

Residents and elected officials, who filled more than half the seats inside Waukesha City Hall at the Jan. 25 meeting, again expressed their opposition to the tower, which was first discussed publicly in November.

The tower has drawn criticism from homeowners living adjacent to the proposed building site who argue that the tower will negatively affect their property values, ruin the aesthetics of their neighborhood and could pose a serious health risk.

RELATED: Decision coming soon on controversial Waukesha cell tower

U.S. Cellular offered the extension to facilitate ongoing lease negotiations with Waukesha County, said City Attorney Brian Running. It was the company's prerogative to do so, he said. The city did not have any legal authority to enact the extension on its own.

U.S. Cellular currently has a tower on county land near the Huber facility, north of the proposed building site. The current lease agreement is set to expire in October, and the company has said that the new agreement offered by the county is stricter and three times more expensive than the one it has worked out with the church.

In a statement released shortly after the meeting, the company said, "It (has) always been our preference to stay at our current location, provided we can come to agreement with the county on reasonable terms. We urge the Waukesha County officials to continue to work with us on these negotiations so we can come to an agreement that works for everyone."

Such an agreement is paramount for the residents fighting against the tower's creation as well.

A handful of them, including Jan Mathias, Amy Gruetzmacher, Alderman Joe Pieper – whose district includes the building site – and Michael Crowley, a county board supervisor, advocated for an agreement between the two parties.

"If that renewal does not happen," Mathias said, "our protest will continue."

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