After much outcry and opposition from residents, proposals for two cell towers have been denied that would have been located on General Motors Proving Ground property in Brighton Township.

The Planning Commission met Monday night and voted 4-2 to deny two separate requests from Verizon to locate towers at one site off Commerce Road and another site on Pleasant Valley Road, on behalf of General Motors. The property in question is zoned industrial, which is preferred for such a venture, but both were in close proximity to residential areas. GM requested the Commission take a vote last night and it was noted there were no other viable locations for the towers, although not all commissioners or residents appeared sold on that statement.

Chairman Steve Holden and Commissioner Daniel Schifko opposed motions to deny the towers. Holden told WHMI there were two locations and two special land use permits, neither of which met with approval. He says at this point the applicant may have some other means to pursue other action but that would be up to Verizon. During the meeting, Holden stated he felt that both GM and Verizon adequately addressed the need for both present and future capacity. Commissioners who voted to deny the cell towers included H.E. Bud Prine, Jeff Stinedurf, Mike Slaton and Larry Herzinger. Vice Chairman Gus Mitsopoulos was absent. Herzinger became the deciding “no” vote after initially voting for the towers in November. He explained his thought process during the meeting and said he didn’t doubt the need for the towers, as Verizon wouldn’t go through the expense if there wasn’t a need. What he did question was that GM didn’t seem to be very flexible, noting they would benefit a tremendous amount from having the towers. Herzinger said he would really like to see the commission push back on GM and believes there are other areas the towers could be located further away from residents.

The majority of concerns raised by residents included the impact on property values, potential health impacts and preserving the rural character of the area - with many stressing there is also no problem with current cell coverage. A number spoke during two public hearings, including Kyle and Deven Millay. Kyle Millay told WHMI their obvious reaction is relief. He says “I think I’ll definitely sleep better tonight than I did last night. I appreciate the council taking the resident’s concerns and considerations into mind and placing the burden on GM and Verizon to prove the necessity of these towers. The board recognized that GM was relatively unwilling to compromise and I think that hurt them in the long run.” His wife Deven added “With a new baby and a two-year old, having a cell tower directly outside of their bedroom window less than 300 feet away, we were the house most affected based on the Commerce Road plan. From our front door, that is literally all you’d see. It’s important to us to maintain the aesthetic and keep our family safe.”

During the meeting, it was noted that usage of wireless communications is growing ten-fold and the sites were considered for a reason to best serve GM’s operational needs, thus should not be moved further onto the property. GM had hoped to improve cellular connectivity and coverage around the entire track. Verizon Engineer Michael Avery commented that the towers are needed to offset capacity problems in the network, not necessarily enhance – further clarifying that there is a difference between coverage and capacity. (JM/AV)