St. Clair Shores City Council approves Verizon towers

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 10, 2020

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Following an extensive discussion of the process in September, members of City Council voted to approve a permit from Verizon Wireless for 12 small cell towers in the city at its Oct. 19 meeting.

Attorney Michael Watza, who represents St. Clair Shores in matters involving telecommunications, told members of City Council in September that the guidelines the city could follow in deciding where to allow small cell towers in the public right of way and how much it could charge cell companies for the privilege had changed with the passage of a new state law at the end of 2018.

Because of the change in the law, St. Clair Shores now had agreements with different fees and requirements with different companies, as some had been adopted prior to any clear regulation of the towers by the Federal Communications Commission or the state, some had been adopted following some litigation, and some had been adopted following the passage of the state law, which lets the city retain minimal control over access to the right of way and less revenue than it earned from earlier agreements.

While Watza said the city could try to join with other cities to fight the state law, possibly all the way up to the Supreme Court, it would be a costly battle and there would be no guarantee the city would get any control back in the matter.

Because of that, members of City Council decided in September to have Watza draft an agreement with Verizon Wireless that is complicit with the regulations in the state law. Under the agreement, Verizon Wireless would pay the city an application fee of $200 if it uses an existing utility pole or a fee of $300 if it intends to use a new or replacement pole. A bond of $1,000 per site is also required.

Most of the poles being considered would have three antennas sticking out of the side of the top of the pole; one of the 12 will also have another piece of equipment attached that looks like a “trash can,” he said. The poles will be located in public right of ways between the sidewalk and the street, Councilman John Caron said.

In making a motion to approve the agreement, Councilman Dave Rubello pointed out that there wasn’t much City Council could do to regulate the placement or aesthetics of the towers.

“We know that your (Verizon’s) competitors are going to be coming around, too,” he said.

Watza concurred that it would likely “take some significant litigation to overturn” the state act.

While Verizon was only asking for a dozen sites this time, Watza said they had future plans to install up to 200 small cell towers throughout the city. He said the representative he worked with at Verizon, however, did not know when they would be making a request for the placement of more towers.

Councilman Chris Vitale said he could support the application, this time, because “right now, this is tolerable” because they won’t be located in any residence’s front yards.