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Some unhappy with cell tower provision in state budget

UNDATED (WXPR) - A little-known provision of the recently-passed state budget bill puts severe restraints on local governments and citizens trying to stop placement of new cell towers.

Local governments can no longer deny wireless tower permits solely for aesthetic reasons, or limit the height of the towers under 200 feet or require them to be on public property. UW-Madison Telecommunications Professor Barry Orton says the changes were done without public notice. “They couldn’t stop it for health reasons, electromagnetic radiation and so on. They can’t stop them for aesthetic reasons, and they have to have a decision on whether the cell tower can be built or not within a very limited amount of time, otherwise they’re deemed as being granted.”

Orton says local governments previously required cell tower owners to locate on public facilities. “All in all, this new budget provision severely limits the ability of local governments to limit where cell towers can go.” When the issue was first noticed, there was a storm of protest, from local governments like the Village of River Hills and Brookfield who felt the state took away local control.

The League of Wisconsin Municipalities said state government was meddling in local affairs.