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State budget makes regulating locations of cell towers tougher

RIVER HILLS, WI (WTAQ) - It just became a lot harder for Wisconsin communities to regulate the locations of cellphone transmitting towers.

Under the new state budget that took effect July 1st, local governments can no longer require cell companies to put their antennas on water towers or other public property.

That’s a big potential revenue loss for communities like River Hills, which gets $200,000 a year in leasing fees from wireless companies. Village officials say they’re considering a lawsuit against the state to strike down the new measure – which got zero public attention as the budget was being passed.

Also, local governments can no longer reject cell towers for aesthetic reasons – and height limits of under 200 feet are no longer allowed.

The Wisconsin Wireless Association lobbied for the measure, saying it’s needed to keep up with the growth in cell service and high-speed Internet.

Jim Greer of AT&T says the patchwork of local regulations is one reason that parts of Wisconsin don’t have good wireless coverage.

In Brookfield, where Verizon wants to build a 130 foot tower, neighbors say it would hurt their property values and make them more susceptible to lightning and falling chunks of ice. They’ve filed a claim notice against the city – and it’s not certain whether the new state budget provision will help Verizon get its project approved.