SEN. DAVE BROWN and Rep. Jim Newberger met with Verizon cell tower opponents following the county planning-zoning meeting Thursday. (Photo by Gary W. Meyer)

Orrock cell tower gets P&Z approval

Subhead: 
Editor
Gary W. Meyer
In a split vote Thursday, the Sherburne County Planning and Zoning Commission gave its approval to construction of a 160-foot Verizon Wireless transmission tower in Orrock Twp.
   The proposal by Verizon, to improve communications reception in the immediate area, had been contested by area residents since it first wound up on the Orrock Twp. Board agenda in June.
   After two hearings on the proposal, it was back on the table before the county planners, who voted 6-2 to recommend approval to the county board, which will hear the issue Jan. 7.
   Voting for the issue were Commissioners Roger Nelson, Blue Hill, Lila Spencer, Livonia, Stephen Demuelles, Palmer, John Norgren, Big Lake, Jeff Schlingmann, Haven and David Jehoich, Santiago.
   Casting naye votes were Mike Meier, Orrock, and Roger Neils, Clear Lake. (Each township has one delegate to the county planning-zoning board.)
   Much of the 30-minute discussion on the issue was taken up by Neils and Meier, who argued the tower would inhibit the quality of life of the residents and that there was not a need for it.
   Meier said he’s had conversations with Sheriff’s Cpt. Steve Doran, who noted no lost or dropped calls, to his knowledge.
   They also argued a cell tower would diminish land values in the area.
   But Schlingmann carried an imposing argument for Verizon, saying cell phone coverage is “not a fad.” He said residents have used the service for 40 years and “it is part of our fabric of life.” 
   He further argued Verizon has met the established criteria within the county ordinance.
That issue was emphasized by Tim Sime, assistant county attorney who sat in on the meeting.
   Sime said county planner studies of the site indicated there are not 24 homes located within a quarter mile of the proposed site, 26120 146th Street NW, Zimmerman.
   He also said there were no environmental concerns  and “if it meets standards, it shall be approved.”
With that came the motion to approve the issue from Nelson.
   Neils interrupted the vote process for a moment until Chairman Bryan Lawrence overruled him and asked for the vote.
   And with that, Verizon’s proposal will go on to the county board.
The cell tower is being constructed on 5.3 acres of land, with a 30-foot building and 80x80-foot fenced area. 
It was reported the cell tower would improve Verizon phone signals to the north - the Little Elk Lake area - and to the west.
Its location is in the northwestern quadrant of land abutting the intersection of Co. Rds. 1 and 4 (adjacent to the former Ponderosa Inn).
Sen. Dave Brown and Rep. Jim Newberger attended the meeting on behalf of the Orrock cell tower opponents. They did not speak, but huddled with the group following the meeting.
The planners also approved a land split to Mabel and Floyd Schultz of Big Lake Twp. and recommended revocation of a landscape-construction home business interim use permit (IUP) to Brent Larson, 15667 209th Ave., Elk River. He has had several violations of a current use permit, to include hours of operation, additional equipment stored outside and fencing.
Those issues will also be heard by the county board Jan. 7.
 

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