Cedarburg Successfully Denies Cell Tower

Good News for Wisconsinites and Municipalities

December 15, 2020: It is possible to win the fight against cell towers in Wisconsin, despite Wisconsin’s 2013 Mobile Tower Siting Regulations which stomp on local municipal control.

In 2019, the Town of Cedarburg (pop. 6,000) located in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, successfully denied a 120-foot cell tower on a horse farm in the Town’s agricultural zoning district which is also surrounded by residential neighborhoods. 

Concerned citizens opposed to the cell tower expressed concerns over “health, aesthetics, the preservation of land, watershed and decreased property value.” 

In Wisconsin, the law (Wis. Stat. 66.0404(4)(g)) prohibits a municipality from denying a cell tower based solely on aesthetic concerns, but the Town Board in Cedarburg denied the conditional use permit for reasons other than just aesthetic concerns.  The Town Board denied the cell tower for:

  1. Reduction in property values
  2. Incompatibility with land uses on adjacent land
  3. Danger to public health, safety and welfare
  4. Non-compliance with Wisconsin’s “search ring” requirement

After the Town Board denied the cell tower application, Eco-Site, a wireless infrastructure company, and the property owners sued the Town (Eco-Site, LLC v. Town of Cedarburg, 2019 WI App 42), but the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld the Town’s decision to deny the cell tower application.

Because the Town based its denial on the economic impact and incompatibility with the Town’s ordinances, the Court decided that the Town’s decision was valid.

So if you or your municipality is opposed to a cell tower, it helps to have strong, protective ordinances.  Share this information with your local municipal leaders.

Remember, a municipality cannot oppose a cell tower based solely on aesthetic concerns, so a municipality should consider other factors. 

In this December 2019 article about the Eco-Site case entitled “Court of Appeals Upholds Denial of Cell Tower Permit,” Attorney Julia Potter writes:

“This decision is an important one for municipalities looking to exercise their right to regulate the siting of cell towers within municipal limits. Municipalities should carefully consider the standards set out in local ordinances for the granting of cell tower permits to ensure that they incorporate factors that are not purely aesthetic (e.g., effect on property values and impact on the uses and enjoyment of nearby property), and should be sure to carefully document that the basis for denial of a permit includes non-aesthetic factors.”

Helpful Information about the Cedarburg Case:

Sample Municipal Ordinance for Your Community

Our friends at Americans For Responsible Technology have drafted this sample municipal code. Forward it to your local municipal leaders so they can protect your community from 4G/5G small cell infrastructure. This page will take you to municipal codes from cities across the country.

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