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Ahee
September 19, 2013
Grosse Pointe Woods — The city council, on the recommendation of the city’s planning commission, approved a request from Sprint Cellular Service to place a wireless antenna on the bell tower at Crosspointe Church.

The antenna, consisting of four cones that will be painted to match the church’s steeple, will provide additional coverage for cell phone users, according to a Sprint attorney, who addressed the council Monday night during a public hearing on the issue.


According to T.J. Garrett, cell phone providers attempt to comply with Public Act 143 that dictates an existing structure, such as a steeple or bell tower, can be used as a cell phone tower.

“It has become common practice to put antenna on schools, hospitals and church steeples,” Garrett told the council. “Most cities do not even hold public hearings anymore. Most approve these projects by administrative review.”

According to Woods building official Gene Tutag, the project met all the city’s requirements under existing ordinances.

But several homeowners who live near the church spoke in opposition to the project, citing both aesthetics and health concerns.

“We will be looking at what used to be a gorgeous steeple, and this will spoil the church,” said Chris Hawlesley. “It is highly visible, it is not stealth. Most residents believe it will be an eyesore.”

Hawlesley also addressed health issues that could arise from exposure to the radio waves emitted by these facilities.

“The rest of the world is taking them out,” he noted, adding that a school, a day care center and a hospital facility are within close proximity to the steeple.

Steve Kent also spoke of health concerns.

“These towers and the radio frequency they emit come with costs that are still in the research phase,” he said. “I will guarantee my house will go up for sale if this goes in.”

Before the council was allowed to express its opinion on the project, city attorney Don Berschback reminded them court rulings prohibit cities and their representatives from using health issues as a reason to block cell phone towers.

Council member Art Bryant said he was in favor of the project.

“There is no question there is a lack of coverage in this community,” he said. “Young people want to eliminate their landline and just use cell phones. I know how bad service is in my area of the city. My vote is that we need a cell phone tower.”

Kevin Ketels agreed with his colleague.

“I use my cell phone for personal and business use,” he said. “I don’t have a landline. I believe property values can be affected by not having cell phone coverage.”

However council member Vicki Granger questioned if additional coverage was needed, saying she had never heard from a resident about lack of cell phone coverage.

“No one has ever told me they can’t get a signal, nor have I ever had a dropped call,” she said.

She also suggested the city do a study to examine possible locations for future cell phone towers.

And in the end, she was the lone no vote on the project, with the city council voting 6 to 1 to approve the project.

Following the vote, Hawlesley said he was not surprised, that he expected the outcome.

“I think it is unconscionable to have it at this location,” he said. “The residents don’t feel the city is working for them. There is a general sense that city employees are not working for the city, but for special interests.”

Bob Sheehy, who is running for a council seat, said he was disappointed by the vote.

“I live and work within range of this tower, and I have never lost a call,” he said. “This is not for the benefit of people who use cell phones.”


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