Wisconsin-based Magnum Broadcasting wants to build a 488-foot tower in the Town of Rutland, WI, to facilitate the move of its station, Bucky Country WBKY 95.9 FM, from Portage to southern Dane County. Rutland’s Town Board denied the company a conditional use permit on grounds that it would interfere with the area and existing property values.
“The town assessor said the property values would decline as a result of the tower being there,” said Dale Beske, Town Chair for Rutland. “And a number of the neighbors said they wouldn’t have bought their parcel if they had known the tower was going to be there.”
In advance of a meeting of Dane County’s zoning and land regulation committee earlier this month, Village of Oregon president Steve Staton and Oregon Chamber of Commerce director Brett Frazier joined several officials from area towns by lobbying county planners to approve a request to build the tower.
However, with pressure mounting from mayors, fire chiefs and school officials in surrounding villages and cities, Town of Rutland leaders dug in their heels against the proposal to erect the tower on local farmland.
In separate meetings, the town’s plan commission and board of supervisors unanimously voted not to “reconsider” the proposal by Magnum.
Rutland officials in April first denied Magnum owner Dave Magnum’s application for a zoning change and conditional use permit to build the tower on 15.5 acres.
At the time, town chair Dale Beske told the Oregon Observer that the board sided with concerned residents who felt the blinking tower would be a blight on Rutland’s rural landscape, saying it seemed “out of scale” for the town.
Magnum later supplied new info about how lights could be partially blocked from nearby residents and that the tower could possibly host other wireless providers.
Beske, however, considered those changes minimal. The town’s concerns “have not significantly changed,” he said.
Dane County Supervisor Patrick Miles, who chairs the county’s zoning and land regulation committee, said the county can’t overturn town zoning decisions.
So the latest vote appears to end Magnum’s chances of getting Dane County officials’ OK on the project. But whether he might file a lawsuit to get his way remains to be seen. Magnum said that while he recognizes commercial radio is a business, there’s also a benefit. He’s pledged to provide local programming from Stoughton to Verona and feels like he’s worked to be accommodating.
Magnum said he may resort to a lawsuit, citing precedent that has helped broadcasters prevail before but he doesn’t want to take it there. “Under these circumstances, I’m being advised that litigation is always an option, but I’ve made no final decision because the process is still pending,” he told The Oregon Observer.
Magnum Broadcasting owns 14 radio stations and one TV station.
Magnum gave RBR-TVBR some of the correspondence on this matter (see below), addressing point-by-point concerns that were brought up. He tells us in the recent past University of Wisconsin radio station WSUM-FM (Dave Black is the GM) went through a similar situation with another area township which went all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court before they could build their tower.
“I continue to hope that litigation can be avoided. If any of your readers have advice on how they’ve overcome NIMBY opposition to building a tower I’d appreciate it. My understanding is that there are experts out there who specialize in these matters.”
Please feel free to send your suggestions to [email protected]
A. The Comprehensive Plan calls for preservation of the Town’s rural character, and the tower
would conflict with that. At almost 500 feet it is out of scale with everything else in the Town.
Response: There is no height restriction in the 2002 Rutland Communications Tower Ordinance.
Sue Wollin, owner of the land the tower would be built on, stated in a letter to the Rutland Board that
the 3 Rutland Cell Towers are also out of scale when compared to farm silos. As to preserving rural
character, the tower would occupy only .04% of the currently tilled field meaning 99.6% would
remain in crops.
B. The tower would be lighted causing the tower lights to be visible to nearby residents every
Response: There is no light restriction in the 2002 Rutland Communications Tower
Ordinance. The FAA only requires medium intensity lighting for this proposed Radio Tower. And, in
an effort to accommodate Rutland, I have worked with a tower light manufacturer which has
developed a special configuration which will reduce visibility of the lights to those on the ground by
around 75%! (please see specs in Hughey & Phillips letter). This system could be utilized for either
a painted or un-painted tower, whichever Rutland prefers.
C. The Tower would be visible from much of the town, including the nearby wildlife areas.
Response: Sue Wollin pointed out that the proposed tower would be 2000 feet away from the road
at the back of a corn field adjacent to dense woods. She stated that this site compares very
favorably with the 3 Rutland Cell Tower sites which are in much more prominent locations. The 3rd
Rutland Cell Tower is in an open area directly across the road from WDNR Anthony Branch.
Further, that the Radio Tower is skinny and hollow compared to the Cell Towers which are either
solid columns or very wide structures.
D. The Town’s assessor estimated a 5% to 15% assessment drop for properties within a half mile
of the tower. We have had multiple owners say that they would not have purchased their parcels
had the Tower been there or had they known the tower was being proposed.
Response: Our proposed site is offset from property lines, utilizes existing tree-line screening, and
is located near an operating quarry. Most discussion on this subject centered around a home that it
turns out is now being built on the adjacent Polakowski property. Rutland Town Assessor Greg
Gardiner told me that based on the information I shared with him that there would be little or even
no effect from the proposed Radio Tower depending on how shrouded the potential home would be
by trees. Actual construction now confirms that the home is 1450’ from the proposed Radio Tower
and situated to capitalize on significant tree-line visual screening. Further, we have seen no
evidence that property values have been diminished by the 3 Rutland Cell Towers. The new landfill
Cell Tower is far more prominent in relation to residences than the proposed Radio Tower would be.
E. There have been multiple studies that have shown that lighted towers can have negative
impacts on bird populations.
Response: Edge Consulting completed FWS screening criteria and did not identify any concerns with
respect to endangered species or habitat. The WDNR concurred with these findings. The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative does not list the proposed Radio Tower site as a significant migratory bird concentration area nor are there any others in the area.
F. The Town’s Communication Tower ordinance calls for the Town to consider the impact of
towers on the viewscape from wildlife areas, two of which are very near this proposed tower.
Response: When addressing the Rutland Board, Sue Wollin made the point that while the Radio
Tower would be taller than the 3 Rutland Cell Towers and would have lights, the Radio Tower is
situated in a much less prominent location. She said the proposed Radio Tower would only need
lights at night and when considering viewing wildlife areas, viewing of the areas only occurs during
daylight hours. And, that during daylight hours the proposed Radio Tower would be significantly
less visual at human eye level especially when compared to the new 3rd Cell Tower. She said the
base of a tower is what matters when considering wildlife viewscapes which are observed during
the day. She has stated that at the very least, all should agree that there is a trade off. Yes, the
proposed Radio Tower would have lights at night, but compared to the 3 cell towers, it has the major
advantage of being significantly more limited visually during land viewing day-light hours.