By Erik S. Hanley

Mequon - Possible zoning code changes may shut down plans for a cell tower set to be built in a residential neighborhood in Mequon.

The proposed changes, which state non-residential structures must be as far from residential properties as they are tall, will be on the Jan. 10 common council agenda for public hearing and potential action.

"We all understand the impact of this, protecting our residential neighborhood," said Mayor Dan Abendroth.


A towering proposition

Proposed for construction in a residential area and discussed at a Dec. 5 plan commission meeting, the tower is set to be constructed on a single-family property at 6131 West Chapel Hill Road in Mequon.  The tower would service the T-mobile network.

Prior to tabling the item, commissioners heard a number of residents voice concerns with the tower's location at the meeting. While practically powerless, many commissioners did echo the citizens' concerns and sympathized.

"I think you're destroying the neighborhood," Alderman Robert Strzelczyk told the T-Mobile representative at the meeting.

He added the state government had "let us down."

Commissioner James Schaefer said he felt as if this was being "shoved down our throats."

Assistant Director of Community Development Jac Zader said the state law makes it difficult for the city to deny this request. In 2013, a law was passed at the state level which imposed strict limits on cell tower regulation by municipalities.

"There's very little we can do to stop it," he said.

However, at a short meeting Dec. 16, the city's plan commission may have found a way.

Zoning specifics

With a quorum of five members, the commission voted unanimously for a text amendment — introduced by Alderman John Wirth — which would change the side and rear offsets of non-residential structures adjacent to residential property. The changes would increase the offset to a one-to-one ratio for all non-residential structures, not just buildings, adjacent to residential property.  This means structures must be just as far from a residential property as they are tall.

Currently, the rule says about 30 feet, according to Zader.

"This is about as best we could do to protect the residential properties as we can," Zader said.

Additionally, Strzelczyk confirmed the height of structure or city-coded setback, whichever is greater, would be what's used for each proposed structure.