UPDATE, April 12, 2021:
The Eagle Harbor Township monthly board meeting is today, Monday, April 12th, at 7pm. At this meeting, the board will discuss the conditional use permit for the proposed cell tower (see meeting agenda).
It is encouraged that people attend the meeting in person or online (via Zoom) to voice their thoughts about the proposed location of the cell tower. The community’s voice can be heard at the beginning of the meeting when there will be an opportunity for public comment. Providing public comment before the board discusses the proposed cell tower later in the meeting provides the board members to have more information during their discussions about the conditional use permit.
This first image shows what the Lodge may have to switch its logo to in the near future. In case you have not heard, Diamond Towers V LLC (“Diamond”) is seeking to purchase property from TRG and build a 263-foot tall cell tower in the vicinity of the Lodge and Brockway Mountain.
This second image is a simulated image of the proposed new AT&T cellular tower that Diamond is seeking to place on property it intends to buy from TRG Threshold Timber Michigan II, LLC, in the vicinity of the Lodge and Brockway Mountain. This image was provided by Diamond as part of its conditional use permit application to Eagle Harbor Township.
As can be seen, the proposed tower would have a significant impact on the historic, scenic viewsheds from the Lodge’s first hole, adjacent cabins, and drive. Other viewsheds from the Lodge golf course holes would also be negatively impacted. Additionally, the tower would have a white flashing strobe light during the daytime and a red flashing beacon at night.
In order to build the tower, Diamond needs to obtain a conditional use permit from Eagle Harbor Township. Section 10.5.1 of the Eagle Harbor Township Zoning Ordinance requires that the Board make a series of findings before issuing a conditional use permit which include (along with others) the following:
a. The Special Land Use shall be designed, constructed, operated and maintained in a manner harmonious with the character of adjacent property and the surrounding area.
b. The Special Land Use shall not change the essential character of the surrounding area.
c. The Special Land Use shall not be detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of persons or property through the excessive production of traffic, noise, smoke, fumes, ground vibration, water runoff, odors, light, glare or other features of the proposed use.
The proposed cell tower does not meet any of these three standards. The area of proposed placement for the tower is one filled with trees, unobstructed by other towers or high visual impacts. The height of the tower and the required lighting at the top of the tower will negatively affect scenic views from the Lodge (as discussed above), as well as from Brockway Mountain. The placement of the tower and its red flashing nighttime beacon has the potential to negatively affect any dark sky certification efforts made by the Lodge (see current application), Brockway Mountain, Eagle Harbor Township, Grant Township, or Keweenaw County. The proposed placement of the tower would be on 40 acres that Diamond intends to purchase from TRG (the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 1, Township 58 North, Range 29 West, Eagle Harbor Township, Keweenaw County), which is a parcel included in Keweenaw County’s nomination for land acquisition by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. That nomination, which seeks state acquisition of privately owned forestland at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula near Copper Harbor for purposes of state ownership and development for recreational purposes, has received wide support from community members, and references the “spectacular” views of “Lake Superior, Keweenaw Bay, Copper Harbor, Copper Harbor Lighthouse, Manitou Island, Brockway Mountain, East Bluff, and vast expanses of forestland.” The proposed tower will negatively affect those spectacular views. The State Historical Preservation Office and Diamond’s consultant in the mandated Section 106 process have both confirmed their understanding that Brockway Mountain and the Lodge (which are both included on the National Register of Historic Places) would be adversely affected by the proposed tower placement. The State Historical Preservation Office has stated in a communication to the FCC that, with regard to the Lodge, “it appears that the construction of the proposed tower at that location could result in the introduction of a visual element that diminishes the integrity of the property’s significant historical features.”
The lack of harmony with the adjacent property and surrounding area might be excused if the proposed tower was going to provide exceptional cell coverage. The challenges with cell coverage in Copper Harbor should not be minimized. However, maps showing proposed coverage (shown in the picture here) show only fair to marginal coverage in Copper Harbor. The areas where the best coverage would be provided appear to be in areas that already have good coverage from another carrier (e.g. Verizon). In short, the proposed location fails to resolve valid concerns about cell coverage in the Copper Harbor area. Notably, because the tower would be located right near the border of the two townships, Eagle Harbor Township is responsible for making the decision on the granting of this conditional use permit, despite the fact that it would affect Copper Harbor and areas of Grant Township significantly.
[ These images with the before and after coverage maps were provided by Diamond within their application for the conditional use permit. ]
Notably, other possible locations exist that could have less of a visual impact and that potentially could have better coverage. The Lodge previously began negotiations with Diamond for placement of a tower on Lodge property. A tower of less than 200 feet (which therefore would not require lighting) was discussed, as Diamond indicated that the elevation at the Lodge would allow for a tower of such heigh. The Lodge has expressed that it would happily explore the possibility of a tower placed on Lodge property as an alternative to the current proposed tower location. Diamond’s consideration of alternative locations appears cursory at best. In a letter to the State Historic Preservation Office, Diamond’s consultant, Ramaker & Associates, noted that alternative locations were not feasible for reasons such as the fact that many private landowners hold area land in the State’s Qualified Forest program and do not want to go through the process of having it removed for a sale. This is despite the fact that Diamond’s purchase agreement with TRG for the proposed tower location has the property remaining in the Qualified Forest program as part of the sale. Additionally, the fact that mineral rights are often reserved in sales of forestland in the area was raised as a challenge for finding a suitable property, as it could require that Diamond remove the tower in the future. This is despite the fact that Diamond’s purchase agreement with TRG allows TRG to retain mineral rights.
It is extremely important that members of the public (whether an Eagle Harbor township resident, a Grant township resident, a former Lodge guest, a visitor to the Keweenaw, or otherwise) express their opinion on the proposed tower to the Board of Commissioners. If the views from the Lodge or from Brockway Mountain are important to you or if you agree that the negatives to the proposed location outweigh the positives, you are encouraged to make your opinion known to the Eagle Harbor Township Board of Commissioners. Written comments can be submitted to email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org. in advance of the meeting. You can also make your opinion known during public comment during the Board of Commissioner’s meeting at the Eagle Harbor Township Hall on April 12th. The meeting begins at 7:00pm. You have the option of attending in person or via Zoom. Instructions for attending via Zoom can be found on Eagle Harbor Township’s website at www.eagleharbortwp.org (under the Board of Trustees page). Please feel free to reach out the Lodge with any questions, concerns, or to discuss this important issue further.
[ The images above are simulated images that the Lodge has created based upon information that we have received from the current special use permit application process. These images reflect the approximate location (not an exact location) and estimated height of the tower (not an exact height). In addition, the style might be different based upon Diamond’s tower design and AT&T’s equipment on the tower. ]
Update: April 10, 2021
To understand what a cell tower with lights looks like at night 4-5 miles away from the Lodge, here is a night sky picture with the Lake Medora tower in it (the red light).
This picture was taken on Friday, April 9, 2021 on Hole 1 – white tees when taking pictures of the night sky. The Lake Medora tower is 4.5 miles from the first tee of the Lodge, and has a blinking red light on the top, and another red light in the middle of the tower.
The proposed tower would be on the right of this picture, a 1/2 mile away, and the height of the tree on the right.