Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Citizens, groups, speak at public meeting on potential effects of proposed cellphone tower on Brockway Mountain

By Michele Bourdieu, with information from Friends of Brockway Mountain

In Grant Township Hall, Copper Harbor, concerned citizens, business owners and representatives of community groups gather for the May 22, 2013, public meeting on a proposed cellphone tower projected to be built on Brockway Mountain. The room eventually filled with more than 80 persons. (Photo © and courtesy Gina Nicholas)

[Editor's Note: This is a slightly updated version of the article we posted Wednesday evening, May 29. We received the additional information today, May 30.]

COPPER HARBOR -- In the small Grant Township Hall in Copper Harbor, a very big meeting concerning a proposed cellphone tower on Brockway Mountain took place on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. The Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) determined the tower would have "Adverse Impact" and required Ramaker and Associates, INC., and SBA Communications Corporation (SBA) to organize this public meeting, citing it as an opportunity for community members to comment upon ways to "avoid, minimize or mitigate" any adverse effect to Brockway Mountain Drive that a cellphone tower might pose.

The proposed site for the tower is located 0.6 miles west of the Brockway Nose. The tower will be about 200 feet north of Brockway Mountain Drive. Its location is marked on this map:

On this map, the red dot/cross (to the left of the number 31 just north of Brockway Mountain Drive) is the proposed Brockway Tower location. (Map courtesy Friends of Brockway Mountain.)

The room was full and bustling with more than 80 concerned citizens and local business owners from throughout the County, while a wide array of county, state and national agencies and organizations were also represented, including (but not limited to) Michigan Nature Association, Copper Country Audubon, Keweenaw County Historical Society, Keweenaw National Historical Park, Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District, Keweenaw Land Trust, Keweenaw Community Forest Company, Keweenaw County Road Commission, Keweenaw County Board, Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, National Scenic Byways and Upper Peninsula Power Company. SHPO did NOT attend the meeting.

The large majority of attendees were not opposed to the erecting of a cellphone tower in the area; they were, however, adamant that the currently proposed 199-ft lattice tower not be located on Brockway Mountain Drive -- a major historical, aesthetic and economic resource for the region's tourism. During the public commentary, alternative locations were encouraged, along with alternate cellphone tower designs that could camouflage their presence (e.g., shorter towers disguised as pine trees -- a very viable and popular technology currently being used throughout the nation).

It is not known if any of the community’s constructive commentary or concerns will hold any weight in the corporation’s final implementation of development, as the tower is planned to be built by the end of 2013. Additionally, the corporation’s planning-process-to-date was a point of contention amongst many attendees since no planning documentation or visual props were provided in the presentation, in-depth research was not evident and no proof of ever hosting a (more general) public hearing on the matter was offered.

According to concerned citizen Bill Marlor, there was supposed to have been a general public meeting explaining everything.

"The public meeting May 22 was a requirement of Michigan SHPO," Marlor said. "Specifically SHPO finds the site will have adverse impact and wanted public comment on ways to minimize the impact."

The efforts to preserve Brockway have been a hot topic recently, as just last year a landowner and coalition of partners -- including The Nature Conservancy, Copper Country Audubon, Keweenaw Land Trust, and the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District -- worked with members of Eagle Harbor Township to obtain a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant of $498,000 with a 25 percent local match to protect the 320-acre parcel atop Brockway Mountain. A grassroots campaign triumphantly brought in nearly 500 donations from local and statewide Michigan residents, individuals from more than 25 other states and support from several foreign countries to raise the $175,000 match and secure the mountain top’s safety.*

Local advocates are now coming together again and striving to go public and make their voices heard against putting a cellphone tower on Brockway Mountain Drive. Comments to Ramaker can still be given until June 10, 2013, regarding mitigating the tower effects by emailing them to history@ramaker.com. (See below for details.) A letter writing campaign will be launched, additional community meetings held, media contacted and outreach on social media networks -- such as Facebook’s Friends of Brockway Mountain -- pursued. Currently, a petition can be signed at: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/big-birds-big-views-not.

In a May 16, 2013, letter to consulting parties, Michael S. Ursin, project manager for Ramaker and Associates, INC., writes, "As you know from earlier communications, the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and SBA Network Services, Inc. (SBA) have agreed that the proposed tower will have an adverse visual effect on Brockway Mountain Drive, a site that is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.  As a result SBA has agreed with the SHPO that it will take steps to minimize or mitigate the adverse effect."

Ursin says the May 22 meeting was scheduled to give the public an opportunity to comment and those unable to attend the meeting may comment in writing. He adds the following:

"SBA will consider comments related to the mitigation of the adverse effect to the historic site made at that meeting or received as a result of the meeting’s published notice, as it formulates a mitigation proposal to be presented to the SHPO. SBA and the SHPO will then prepare a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) describing the adverse effect and detailing mitigation actions to be taken. SBA and the SHPO will then submit the MOA to the FCC for inclusion in its broader environmental assessment process."**

Concerned citizens and groups can send comments to Michael S. Ursin, project manager, by the deadline of June 10, 2013, via email at history@ramaker.com or write to him at Ramaker and Associates, INC., 1120 Dallas Street, Sauk City, Wisconsin 53583.

According to Friends of Brockway Mountain, the bottom-line desire of the tight-knit Keweenaw community is not to fight with the development of a cell phone tower, but instead to cooperate with the developers so that all parties are satisfied and Brockway Mountain is protected.

On their Facebook Page, Friends of Brockway Mountain, in addition to encouraging citizens to write to Ursin at Ramaker and Associates, Inc., also state, "More importantly, please share your concerns with your state and federal government representatives who can work to ensure the review process underway is comprehensive and complete with all alternative locations appropriately reviewed and all mitigation activities explored."

Visit Friends of Brockway Mountain on Facebook to learn more and support the effort.

Editor's Notes:

* See Keweenaw Now's Dec. 9, 2011, article, "Updated: Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board recommends funding for Brockway Mountain parcel in Eagle Harbor Township."

** Click here to read the rest of this May 16, 2013, consulting letter on Google Docs, posted courtesy of Dean Woodbeck. See also on Google Docs, posted by Woodbeck, the FCC form, which includes photo simulations showing the potential viewscape effects of the proposed tower, and an Oct. 15, 2012, letter from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

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