Proposed cell phone tower sparks concerns of higher water rates

Posted at 6:03 PM, Nov 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-29 18:04:27-05

CALEDONIA TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- A proposed cell phone tower which improves communication and brings people together is actually causing a rift between Caledonia Township and the Village of Caledonia.

Township officials are concerned a new tower will eventually impact township water rates.

The village, which is physically located within the township, has reached an agreement with telecommunications company Skyway Towers LLC that would allow Skyway to lease village property and build a cell phone tower.

Township treasurer Richard Robertson said the agreement was reached in April, but the township learned about it indirectly just this month.

"The concern is that we have cell phone leases on our own tower, which is literally a stone's throw away, which has available space on it for lease," he explained.

The township's water tower is about seven-tenths of a mile from the village's proposed cell tower site. Township officials are concerned that competition from a new tower will cause wireless carriers to forgo renewing their leases on the water tower, thus hurting water fund revenue, possibly resulting in higher water rates for residents.

"We've had cell phone leases on those towers for years, and they generate, really, a generous revenue to our water system," Robertson explained. “This year alone, about $90,000 will be the revenue off of our cell phone leases.” He said the $90,000 figure amounts to about 15 percent of the township's water revenue.

"What we are, in a sense, disappointed in is that we were not more aware of it, because we could have engaged with the village on this earlier, and then, secondly, the fact that the lease ... is not consistent with the township's own ordinance on telecommunications towers," Robertson explained.

He believes the village is going against its own written objectives, which he said is to keep towers in the area to a minimum.

Robertson also voiced his concerns during the village planning commission meeting Thursday night.

Following public comment, officials said they would table the issue until next month.