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Milton Board Confirms Preliminary Approval of Verizon Sitemap

By March 27, 2022Site plan

Milton City Council has unanimously upheld the planning and zoning commission’s decision to grant preliminary site plan approval to Verizon to erect a 140-foot cell tower on land owned by the town on Front Street.

At its March 23 meeting, the board agreed that the planners conducted a thorough, orderly, and logical review of Verizon’s application and made their decision based on the evidence presented. Councilwoman Lee Revis-Plank said the commission attached 17 conditions to their approval that must be met before Verizon can begin moving toward final review of the site plan.

“It’s not something where one or two of them can be checked off. I think the planning and zoning commission took the time to review all the evidence and document for the written record anything that was of concern to them and needed to be addressed. This indicates that the process itself was quite comprehensive,” she said.

Councilman Larry Savage said when Verizon sought a special use permit — required because the tower is in a residential zoning district — the commission imposed nine conditions on approval. During the preliminary sitemap process, the commission added eight more, Savage said, indicating a thorough process.

Council had met on March 23 to decide on an appeal of preliminary site plan approval filed by Milton resident Allen Benson.

In a public hearing on March 9, Benson presented two arguments in favor of overturning the commission’s decision. First, the planning and zoning did not take into account the negative impacts on neighboring properties when granting approval. Second, the city code states that no new utilities can be built in a flood zone, which is this part of Front Street.

The Verizon Tower has been a source of controversy from the start, primarily due to its location, which is believed to be in the city’s current public works yard at 210 Front St. The location backs onto residential homes on Walnut Streets and Collins.

Verizon said the tower’s location and height will provide the best cellphone coverage for Verizon customers in Milton. Opponents, however, say the tower would be an eyesore in a part of town that is frequently flooded and is being proposed as a potential gateway to the town in Milton’s overall development plan, particularly after demolition and construction. removal of the current sewage treatment plant when the new Artesian plant on Route 30 is operational.

At the March 9 hearing, city attorney Seth Thompson, representing planning and zoning, said the commission considered the health, safety and welfare of the community in making its decision. decision. He said the series of conditions placed on the approval were intended to address the flooding issue and that Verizon indicated that the platform where the tower would be placed is above the floodplain. Thompson said the commission questioned Verizon representative John Tracey at length about the flooding issue around Front Street, demonstrating that those concerns were addressed before the commission granted preliminary site plan approval. Finally, he said Verizon still needs approval from state agencies before final approval of the site plan.

Benson’s appeal was only heard by four of the seven council members. Councilor Randi Merdith and Councilors John Collier and Sam Garde have opted out of the proceedings. Supporters of Benson’s appeal also wanted Mayor Ted Kanakos to recuse himself due to a land lease he signed with Verizon in 2019. Kanakos chose not to recuse himself, leaving Kanakos, Savage, Revis- Plank and Councilman Rich Baty as judges on the appeal.

Revis-Plank addressed the audience: “The process this board follows to deal with the appeal is narrowly focused on whether the decision is based on the evidence. It is very difficult and difficult to make this decision. We heard your concerns – I see nods – but, honestly, we heard you. We are your neighbors and we are trying to do our best to make this decision.

After the vote, Benson said: ‘It was apparent to me that, contrary to the comments of two of the board members, they did not listen to my appeal statement or my closing statement at the appeal hearing. The point that seems to have been overlooked is that I never denied that Planning and Zoning discussed flood risk at the site plan hearing, but the point of the appeal was that, contrary to city code, they never discussed the impact a possible increase in flooding on Front Street would have on the adjacent neighborhood.

He said that while he doesn’t have the resources to appeal the council’s decision to the Delaware Superior Court, supporters have been discussing possible funding because the issue is of such concern to the community, which unfolded in large numbers at the March 9 and March 23 meetings on Benson’s Call.