Verizon Wireless has once again applied for a conditional use permit (CUP) to build a new telecommunications tower on the outskirts of Spring Grove. This time, however, Houston County is being asked to grant the CUP since the site is outside the city limits in Spring Grove Township.

Curt Walter appeared for Verizon at the June 26 meeting of the Houston County Planning Commission. Landowner Paul Solum is also named on the permit application, which Walter said would allow the company to lease a 75x75- foot site and build a 250-foot tall self-supporting structure capped with a nine-foot lightning rod.

"It (the site) is just north of the city of Spring Grove city limits," zoning administrator Bob Scanlan said.

"Verizon's looking to upgrade their system in the Spring Grove area," Walter said. "We currently have a facility on the old city water tower... but the historic water tower can't physically handle all of the extra weight that we'd need to bring in the new 4G LTE equipment.

"We had a spot leased with the (Farmers) Co-Op, but the city said 'no,' they didn't like that spot. We really need to be as close to that water tower as we can. Right now, we've got a footprint that covers the city. If we move our facility too far to the east, we will lose some coverage in the west. The same way with moving it north and south... This is the closest property that we've been able to find outside the city limits."

The Solum site is about 1300 feet northeast of the water tower, Walter said.

He added that Verizon will seek permission from the city council to improve an existing city right of way for access. Failing that, a private driveway would need to be developed.

Three residents appeared asking just where the structure would be built in relation to their properties. Larry Johnson said that he was concerned that the tower could hit his home if it fell, but Walter claimed that was not possible. In addition to being too far away, he said the structure is designed to fold in on itself if it fails, rather than toppling like a tree.

The proposed design differs from the 175-foot monopole that the city rejected last fall. It would closely resemble a MnDOT tower east of town, Walter said. Like that tower, it will also need to have lights on top.

The PC voted to recommend approval for the CUP as long as all local, state, and federal regulations are followed. The county board will consider the application on July 8.

The PC also convened a CUP hearing for Arlin and Susan Peterson of Sheldon Township to build a dwelling on less than 40 acres in an ag district. That permit is needed because the lot size is only 14 acres and is no longer part of a larger farm. Peterson said that the site is where the old farm house stands, which will be replaced. There were no objections from commissioners who voted unanimously to recommend approval.

County zoning permits are flying off the shelf. The PC voted to approve 20 already-issued building permits, which included three new homes with garages, one stand-alone garage, a home addition, six sheds, three barn additions, a cabin/shop/lodge measuring 45x76 feet, two grain bins, a temporary asphalt plant, a cell tower shelter, and a 207-foot telecommunications tower (in separate townships).

Prior to the PC session, the Houston County Board of Adjustment held their first meeting of the year. Like the Planning Commission, that board does not meet unless there are specific issues that require their attention, such as a public hearing.

Members reelected Garland Moe as BOA chairman, then held a variance hearing for Tim Crane of Crooked Creek Township. Crane said that he wanted to replace a shed which had been destroyed by fire, and found that it was located too close to the setback from a parcel of state forest land. Commissioners voted to grant a variance of 42 feet on the 50 foot setback requirement. Variances, unlike CUPs, do not require a vote from the county board of supervisors to take effect.