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Plan for cell tower at Norge Ski Club debated

FRG official says AT&T working on alternate designs

Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 11:35 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 24, 2014 9:46 a.m. CDT
(Kyle Grillot – kgrillot@shawmedia.com)
Norge Ski Club President Scott Smith talks about the height of the proposed cell tower and the current condition of the ski jump Tuesday in Fox River Grove. AT&T wants to build a 120-foot cellphone monopole at the Norge Ski Club, which would be lower than the 173-foot-tall ski jump. Some village residents oppose the monopole that would help provide coverage within a 1.5- to 2-mile radius of the location, said Robert Stapleton, president of National Wireless Ventures.

FOX RIVER GROVE – About 100 feet from Violet Road is a stake in the ground with an orange ribbon.

It denotes the general area on Norge Ski Club property a proposed 120-foot AT&T cellphone monopole would be built.

If the tower is built, the top would be about 20 feet above the top of the treeline, and well below the top of the 170-foot ski jump, Norge Ski Club President Scott Smith said. There is an adjacent service road that Norge uses for operation, and it has easy access for AT&T.

Over the past few months, village officials have been discussing the monopole plans. Last month, the Village Board signaled it would not approve AT&T’s proposal.

Residents who live in the area of the ski jump club have spoken out against the cellphone tower plan, and one resident complained about the aesthetics, even saying it would ruin the village’s skyline.

Smith would not disclose how much money the ski club could potentially earn from having AT&T on its property, but said it would help keep the club financially stable.

“It keeps us from having to start charging the local recreation council for using our property for soccer,” Smith said. “We don’t want to go down that road. We like the relationship we have with Fox River Grove. They support us; we support them.”

The club’s annual budget is about $50,000, with $30,000 going toward paying property taxes.

Under village ordinance, cellphone towers require a special use permit approved by the Village Board and can be no taller than 100 feet. However, the Village Board can grant a height variance for taller towers.

In March, Village Board members did not approve the proposed 120-foot cellphone monopole at Norge and directed staff members to draft a memo stating the reasons for denial.

However, AT&T is working on possible alternate proposals, such as bringing the monopole down to 100 feet or going to a “monopine” design, Village Administrator Derek Soderholm said.

A monopine design looks like an evergreen style tree, but costs more money, Soderholm said.

Branches on the monopine help conceal the antennas.

Soderholm said AT&T hopes to present a new design concept in May and is gathering information and working on photo simulations of a possible proposal.

AT&T didn’t comment on the possibility of having an adjusted design.

“We continue to evaluate our options to strengthen our wireless network in Fox River Grove for our customers who rely on our wireless network to stay connected to family, friends, work, school and emergency responders,” AT&T spokesman Eric Robinson said in a statement.

AT&T officials have said they want to build the monopole to help meet the data demands by cellphone users now and in the future.

The ski club leases space to two cellphone providers. The antennas are located on the 170-foot ski jump’s support structure, with cables running up the beams to the antennas.

If AT&T tried to put its antennas on the ski jump it would require the jump to be redesigned, Smith said.

“I don’t see that happening,” Smith said. “To add another [antenna] on there, we probably have to do some redesigning on that jump, and that’s a big ordeal. You would be putting up more structure on that thing. It probably wouldn’t look like a ski jump anymore.”

The base of the proposed tower also is on lower ground than the base of the ski jump’s support beams.

While standing at the site of the proposed pole, the area is currently surrounded by trees, several of which are dead and need to be cut down anyways, Smith said.

“This is ideal,” Smith said. “This is the highest point in McHenry County. Why wouldn’t you want to be out here?”

Judy Mascolino, who lives across the street from the ski jump, has been a vocal opponent of the tower.

She said changes to the design of the tower would be a “last gasp” for AT&T’s plan. She also contends most of the area is residential and a cellphone tower should be in an industrial site.

“They’re defacing the town without the town getting any benefit,” Mascolino said. “They’re being like pigs and want more and more easy money.”

She also questioned the notifications for the meetings regarding the tower, some of which were rescheduled. Mascolino added she doesn’t trust materials provided by AT&T.

“If they make a promise, how do we know they will come through?” Mascolino said.

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