Cell phone company may still be interested in erecting structure


By Dave Fidlin


Rochester’s municipal code concerning tower regulations, which has been under the microscope for nearly a year, has been altered again with input from legal counsel.

Since last fall, Rochester officials have been seeking Village Attorney Eric Larson’s expertise on revisions to an ordinance outlining the dos and don’ts of permissible towers within the village. The exercise also has been an opportunity to sync up the local code with changes in state statute.

The review coincides with Green Bay-based Bug Tussel Wireless Cloud 1 LLC’s application to install 304-foot-high guy wired lattice cell tower in a rural section of Rochester at 34914 Oak Knoll Road.

Nearby residents shared a range of concerns with the Village Board and Plan Commission, and the proposal ultimately was voted down. Officials at the time cited the company’s failure to meet a lengthy list of conditions.

Since the denied application, Rochester officials have been refining the municipal code to reflect changes to state statute, which limit how municipalities across Wisconsin can accept or deny conditional-use permit applications.

The state-level changes give local decision-makers less latitude in granting approvals or denials. If an applicant meets a list of specifications, for instance, a conditional-use permit needs to be awarded to comply with the statute.

There has been discussion in the first half of 2021 of Bug Tussel potentially submitting a new permit application in a modified form, though no firm details have surfaced.

When the issue was most recently discussed at a Village Board meeting July 13, Village Administrator-Treasurer Betty Novy confirmed a Bug Tussel representative had reached out to her as changes to the municipal code were refined.

“Someone from that company did call me and asked about the ordinance,” Novy said. “I wasn’t willing to do their analysis. I sent (the ordinance) to them and let them make a determination.”

The latest sets of changes to the municipal code are more procedural in nature, outlining how the local review and decision-making process is carried out. The Plan Commission — rather than the Village Board — has the final say in the matter.

In a memo, Larson cited a number of technical details within state statute that served as the basis for his recommendation to give the Plan Commission oversight into the matter.

“The Village Board cannot act as the appeals body when conditional-use permits are denied or rejected,” Larson wrote, citing a passage from the state’s law books. “The statute contemplates a quasi-judicial decision on the grant or denial of the conditional-use, based upon substantial evidence presented at a hearing.”