U.S. Cellular renews lease for tower on county grounds


U.S. Cellular has withdrawn plans to construct a new 100-foot cell tower behind a local church, vindicating a months-long protest waged by residents near the proposed tower site against its construction.

The company announced Friday, April 7, its intention to withdraw its application for a conditional-use permit to build the new tower at 915 Magnolia Drive, near Buen Samaritano United Methodist Church on the city's north side. The application was to be considered at the April 12 Waukesha Plan Commission meeting, but has since been removed from the agenda.

"We are delighted that the Waukesha County Board approved our lease agreement allowing us to keep our tower at its current location near the Huber Facility," U.S. Cellular said in a statement. "It was always our first option to remain at this location, and this decision ensures that we can continue to provide high-quality network service to our customers in the area."

Related:Decision on contentious Waukesha cell tower delayed

Glad to hear it

Amy Gruetzmacher, one of the residents who led an outspoken campaign against the tower, said she was relieved the fight was over.

"I think I speak for the residents of the Magnolia Drive neighborhood when I say that we are grateful that Waukesha County officials were able to come to an agreement with U.S. Cellular," she said. "And we appreciate the fact that both sides were willing to negotiate for everyone's best interests."

The plan commission delayed a decision on the conditional-use permit earlier this year after U.S. Cellular asked for more time to negotiate a lease.

The tower drew criticism from city and county officials and homeowners living adjacent to the proposed building site who argued that the tower would negatively affect their property values, ruin the aesthetics of their neighborhood and possibly pose a serious health risk.

State's role

Outcry over the proposed tower also highlighted contentious state regulations, which Waukesha adopted in 2014, that prevent municipalities from denying or regulating wireless tower permits for aesthetic reasons, limiting the number of towers, their proximity to one another or the height of towers to under 200 feet.

This year alone, several cell tower approvals, including one in Mequon and one in Greendale, have caused similar concerns.

In the Greendale case, village officials rejected a proposal for a cell tower, also on church property, much to the delight of residents. However, in March, U.S. Cellular initiated a legal challenge to that decision, claiming it goes against state law. That case is still pending a resolution.

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