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GREENDALE - Following the denial of a cell tower proposed for the St. Stephen the Martyr property, both the church and the developer are taking the village to court.

The village received a court summons filed March 8 relating to their Feb. 7 decision to deny the request from the church to allow a 100-foot T-Mobile cell tower on their property, 6101 S. 51st St.

Village President Jim Birmingham said the village received the summons late last week. As of now, there is no court date set. He said the matter has been turned over to the village attorney.

Joe Konop, evangelism chair at St. Stephen the Martyr, said the lawsuit was filed by PI Tower Development, a company which develops and manages wireless communication tower sites. The church is only involved with the lawsuit "based on the contractual obligation of the land lease with the organization," he explained

"St. Stephen the Martyr was not consulted by PI Tower Development in filing the suit, and St. Stephen the Martyr has not hired an attorney to represent the church in the suit," Konop said.

Citing statute

The petition for review from both the church and PI Tower Development was included with the summons. It states they are seeking a review of the "erroneous interpretation" of State Statute 66.0404 (mobile tower regulations) by the village's board of trustees.

The statute placed limits on the extent and manner in which a municipality can use zoning authority to regulate cell phone towers. Municipalities still need to do a zoning review and issue a building permit.

The petition lists the following reasons cited by the Greendale Village Board that led to its decision to deny the application:

  • Failure to submit an engineering certification and otherwise failing to meet a minimum setback requirement according to village code.
  • A violation of village code which prohibits wireless communication towers, antennas, and associated accessory structures and facilities from being constructed in a location that obstructs the view of something of visual interest from a residential zoning district within 1,000 feet of the tower, antenna, or associated structure.
  • Failure to provide a sworn statement concerning functionality, coverage, capacity, feasibility, or economic burden which indicate a new support structure should be constructed.
  • A statement that the tower would "significantly disrupt the historical planned community."
  • Failure to provide written consent of the property owner or a site survey map from an engineer.
  • A list of 32 reasons for denial from two members of the public at a public hearing.

The petition suggests the village's reasons for denial were "both groundless and in direct conflict with Wisconsin law." The petition insists the application for the tower was complete according to law, that certain village codes can't be applied in this situation due to Wisconsin State Statutes, and that some denials were "based solely on aesthetic concerns."

According to the petition, T-Mobile "prefers to locate its wireless communications facilities on existing structures." However, it was determined there were "no existing structures (that) would accommodate T-Mobile's desired communications facility." Following a search for a property within a geographic search ring, the St. Stephen the Martyr location was selected.

The church and PI Tower Development desire a declaratory judgment from the court based on State Statute 806.04 regarding construction of the cell tower.

Further consideration

Regarding the denial of the proposal, Birmingham said the village was aware of the criteria needed to deny it and they did their best to meet those criteria.​ He said he personally didn't think it would lead to a lawsuit.

The summons and petition are listed as a new communication agenda item for the March 21 Greendale village board meeting.

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