Appeal filed in BWCAW cell tower caseAT&T Mobility has appealed a district court judge’s decision barring it from building a 450-foot lighted cell phone tower along Fernberg Road in Lake County that would be visible from portions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
By: News-Chronicle, News services, Lake County News Chronicle
AT&T Mobility has appealed a district court judge’s decision barring it from building a 450-foot lighted cell phone tower along Fernberg Road in Lake County that would be visible from portions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
In the notice of appeal it filed Sept. 29 with the Minnesota Court of Appeals, the company urged the court to side with Lake County’s decision to allow the tower to be built.
“We feel strongly that this is a public safety issue, and that the facility the county approved is needed to best serve and protect the safety of residents and visitors,” said Alex Carey, an AT&T spokesman for Minnesota and the northern plains.
After a trial in April, Hennepin County Judge Philip Bush ruled against the large tower in August, but said the company could build a 199-foot tower on the same site. He said the larger tower and its flashing lights would materially impair the scenic and other natural resources of the wilderness and would violate the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act.
In its lawsuit, the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness argued that the tower, sited on a ridge adjacent to the Fernberg Trail and Fall Lake within two miles of the BWCA wilderness, would be seen by canoeists, campers, photographers, and stargazers.
Carey said the company expects to start building the shorter tower allowed by the court later this year and to finish it early next year.
If its appeal is successful, he said it would then build the larger tower, transfer communications to it, and dismantle the smaller tower without interrupting service.
He said the company plans to file its brief with the court within 60 days, and expects the appeal to be heard sometime next year.
Carey said the company is not interested in building two shorter towers, as the Friends organization suggested. That, he said, would double the cost and would still not provide the level of coverage offered by the larger tower.
“The Friends are disappointed that AT&T is choosing to prolong the litigation through an appeal and is particularly concerned that some of the issues raised by AT&T appear to be an attack on the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act itself,” said Stephen Safranski, one of its attorneys.
Another disputed cell tower near Afton State Park has been approved but will be built as a 110-foot “stealth” tower resembling a pine tree.