Supervisors hold public hearing on amendment to Zoning Ordinance regarding towers within Bluffland Protection District

by Joe Moses

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors met in regular session Monday, April 22 to address a full agenda of items including the Public Hearing for amendment #3 to the Zoning Ordinance, setting a date and time for the Fiscal-Year 2019 budget amendment Public Hearing and the approval of multiple plat requests.

During the time allotted for Public Comment, Allamakee County Zoning Administrator Tom Blake provided an overview of a recent plat request. The Supervisors were in agreement that the matter should be added to the next meeting agenda to allow discussion and official action.

The Public Hearing for Amendment #3 to the Zoning Ordinance was opened with Blake providing an overview of this matter’s history. Blake indicated that discussion initially took place July 30, 2018 due to a communications tower application from Northeast Iowa Telephone Company (NEIT) as a subcontractor for AT&T following the State of Iowa’s decision to be included in the FirstNet First Responders Network.

Blake read aloud the proposed amendment: “Towers greater than thirty-five (35) feet in height shall not be placed within one-quarter (1/4) mile of the Bluffland Protection District except towers constructed for those uses set forth in Section 302.5(1) of the Allamakee County Zoning Ordinance: Governmental public projects, public utilities and fencing.” Blake further discussed that the matter went before the Board of Adjustment due to the proposed siting being within the one-quarter mile setback area within the Bluffland Protection District with the variance request being denied. Supervisor Dan Byrnes added that the Board of Adjustment denied the application on the grounds that the tower siting was not compatible with the surrounding area and was not denied due to the zoning ordinance.

Phillip Hammell of New Albin discussed his opposition to the communications tower siting indicating that the FirstNet Network is a necessary service that could have been accomplished using other existing towers with another communications tower operated by NEIT near Lansing being approximately ten miles away. Hammell commented that he is able to see six towers from his front porch that would be able to carry the FirstNet service and provided an overview of his research of the FirstNet service, which requires the installation of receivers, being similar to the common G4 network. Hammell expressed concerns that a for-profit entity is being involved in a government and public project, and he further indicated that it is unnecessary to install this tower within the Bluffland Protection District.

The Public Hearing was closed. Board Chairperson Larry Schellhammer and Blake discussed the next steps relating to this matter, which will include the first reading and subsequent readings or waiving of readings of the amendment.

The Supervisors individually reviewed and approved plat requests for the Gerald and Linda Nelson Joint Revocable Trust, Dennis D. and Sandra R. Koenig, Mark L. and Terry L. Bader, Charles P. and Dorothy Ann Byrnes, David D. Vorwald, and Mary Kruse-Emerson. Supervisor Dennis Koenig abstained from voting on the Dennis D. and Sandra R. Koenig plat request.

Allamakee County Auditor Denise Beyer addressed the next agenda item by discussing the hiring of temporary office personnel in the County Auditor’s office as needed, which was approved at the April 15 Supervisors meeting. Beyer indicated that the hourly wage for temporary office personnel was not set at that meeting with Beyer providing a recommendation of setting that wage at $13 per hour, which was then approved by the Supervisors.

Beyer provided a recommendation to set the date and time for the Public Hearing for the Fiscal-Year 2019 budget amendment as 9:40 a.m. Monday, May 20, 2019, which was approved.

Under Department Head Updates, Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Corey Snitker discussed the Department Head meeting scheduled to take place later in the day. Snitker indicated that meetings will take place with cities countywide relating to hazard mitigation planning. Snitker also talked about river flooding and projected water levels for the Mississippi River and that a large portion of Iowa qualifies under the President’s disaster declaration.

Snitker advised that a full-scale exercise is scheduled for Saturday, April 27 in New Albin with a final planning meeting to take place Tuesday, April 23. Snitker also discussed the negative impact flooding has had upon agriculture.

Beyer discussed that an audit was completed by Workers’ Compensation which may result in a refund or require payment dependent upon how close the County’s related estimates were. Beyer discussed that she will be working with temporary office staff later in the week and briefly discussed the upcoming Department Head meeting.

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