On Oct. 15, the Spring Grove City Council struggled with an appeal from Verizon Wireless, challenging their recent decision to deny a conditional use permit (CUP) for a new cell phone tower within city limits.

After going into closed session for 20 minutes to discuss the matter with City Attorney Joe Hammell, members became deadlocked on whether or not to approve six "findings of fact" on their Oct. 1 denial. A 3-2 vote along different lines eventually supported the appeal, which sent the matter back to the Spring Grove Planning Commission.

Council Member Nancy Nelson moved to approve the findings following the closed session. However, after arguments on the matter went on for some time, Council Member Rachel Olerud told members that she would have to abstain from the vote. "I want more information," she said. "I want to look at that site."

The findings listed the same concerns that were brought up at the Oct. 1 meeting, including potential impacts on redevelopment, future zoning, aesthetics, dangers from toppling, the potential for other carriers demanding additional sites, and lack of benefit for those with different (incompatible) service.

If they had been approved, the next item on the agenda would have been a one-year moratorium on the construction of cell phone towers within city limits. That resolution stated that it is necessary to allow the city to complete a revision of the zoning ordinance and zoning map before allowing additional towers to be built.

With an apparent 2-2 deadlock on the findings of fact, Hammell suggested that members bypass that item and the resolution and move on to the appeal.

Curt Walter of Buell Consulting Inc. appeared again on behalf of Verizon Wireless. "We're not asking you to approve it (the CUP)," he stated. "We're not asking you to change your mind from a denial to approval. We're asking you to change your mind from a denial to a table."

Walter asked the council to forward specific requests for information to him, and offered to field questions from citizens.

Councilman Robert Vogel moved to grant the petition (appeal), sending the application back to the planning commission so they can finish their review. Seconded by Councilmember Lorilyn Dehning, the motion passed 3-2 with opposition from Nelson and Mayor Bruce Poole.

Vogel reiterated that the planning commission has asked Verizon to provide information on an alternate site, approximately 150 feet to the north of the original location. "For the planning commission, there is only one issue," he stated, "the visual effects."

The tower application was neither approved nor denied. The effect of the vote will be to table the CUP until the planning commission completes their review, then send the matter back to the council with a recommendation. Poole stated that he would inform Verizon in writing that the city is extending the review process for an additional 60 days.

Members on both sides of the issue strongly encouraged citizens to contact the council with their views on the matter prior to the next city council meeting.

Main Street Update

Poole again asked citizens to bring their concerns on Main Street work to the city, so that a "punch list" of items can go to engineers. Problems with sidewalks, drainage, water in basements, etc. need to be addressed before the city signs off on the project, he said.

Curb and gutter work on the eastern end of the project is the focus now, Poole said, so that pavement lifts on that end of town can go in. At the last contractors' meeting three to six more weeks of detours were discussed, he added. If planters are delivered this fall. they will be stored until spring in order to facilitate snowplowing. Even though the roadway is scheduled to reopen this fall, work on other areas such as planting beds will undoubtedly continue next spring.

Other council actions

Dehning made a motion to authorize up to $18,060 for new "snowflake" LED Christmas lights for 32 downtown streetlight poles. She added that old Christmas lights can be traded in to offset part of the expense. Nelson cast the only "no" vote, stating that the expenditure was not budgeted.

Members voted to deny permission for Kwik Trip to remove a portion of curb along the east side of 1st Street NW. Nelson said that it would eliminate two parking spaces, and Vogel noted that the curb is city property.

A temporary liquor license for Ye Olde Opera House was approved by a 4-1 vote. Nelson opposed, stating that proof of dram shop insurance should be required.

The council also approved $200 to repair sprinklers at the city-owned football field.

A joint meeting with the Spring Grove EDA (Economic Development Authority) was set for Nov. 19. The 2014 EDA budget will be on the agenda.

Members approved adding a Swim Center "special offer" to a Spring Grove Commercial Club Savings Card. Local not-for-profits will benefit from the fund raising program, Commercial Club spokesman Sara Schroeder said. Nelson cast a lone "no" vote, stating that city donations to nonprofits are not allowed. Hammell said that is true, but as long as the offer brings paying customers to the facility, it would qualify as advertising. The offer would likely include something like a free bag of popcorn with a paid admission, Vogel said.