The Spring Grove Planning Commission met Oct. 30 to complete their review of a conditional use permit (CUP) application for Verizon Wireless. A company spokesman provided members with new information on an alternative site for a new cell phone tower within the Spring Grove city limits. The new location is 150 feet to the north of the one originally proposed.

Members reviewed setbacks, fencing, road frontage, screening, and more during the meeting. They looked at photo simulations of the city skyline with the tower drawn in. Most importantly, all of the above was done with the new site in mind, one which the planning commission previously asked Verizon to consider. That consists of land which lies on the northern edge of the city's "Public Open Development" zoning district.

Curt Walter of Buell Consulting appeared on behalf of Verizon. "We believe this is a good spot..." he told commissioners, "This should help the view from Main Street."

"If you look at the water tower, the new site drops about 10 feet. The water tower is about 135-140 feet tall. Our tower is 175 feet high, so we're really about 25 feet taller.

"It isn't so much about the actual height as it is about the perspective," Commissioner Robert Vogel said.

"I think moving it back has done two things," Commissioner Lee Hoekstra said. "It's lowered the perceived elevation, and it has gotten it away from the (grain) elevators, which was a concern. I also think for those people who are concerned about emissions... about being in such close proximity to a school, by moving it back you have also alleviated those concerns to some extent."

In a letter presented to commissioners, Walter reminded members that "the same cellular technologies and frequencies" have existed inside city limits "for many years" as a result of the current equipment located on the water tower next to city hall.

"Typically the carrier broadcasts will be above the tree line," Walter added later. "At this elevation, the school's got to be at least 15 feet lower than that."

Vogel recommended screening the prefabricated equipment shelter at the base of the structure.

"Maybe we should treat this as two permits," he suggested, "One being a CUP to allow the pole, and then when a contractor is selected issue a building permit for the structure at the bottom..."

The second permit would stipulate how the site will be screened.

Walter also brought information on how monopoles fail from an engineering firm which designs that type of tower. The report states that "The monopole will buckle at the location of the highest stress ratio within the monopole shaft. This is likely to result in the portion on the monopole above 'folding over' onto the portion below, essentially collapsing on itself.

"For a 175 foot tower, that translates to a danger zone of about 80 feet," Walter said. The leased space for the site is a square lot measuring 75 feet on each side.

Commissioners voted to recommend approval with a couple of conditions.

The first will require the company to utilize the second site rather than the one originally proposed. The second is that all state, federal, and local ordinances will be followed.

The local ordinance requires the company to allow co-location for other cell providers. Members suggested that the design provide two co-locations, so that up to three providers can use it.

No strobe light was asked for atop the tower, although Walter offered to provide it upon request. Commercial setbacks will apply, which are well within the leased space. Vogel offered to draft the document, which should go to the city council for approval on Nov. 19.