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The towering issues of towers

Towers. This one small word comes with a lot of emotions attached to it in Afton. They can be called eyesores or monstrosities, but in the end are they necessary?

It was for these towering issues and concerns that the Afton Planning Commission recommended approval of several amendments to their ordinance that addresses telecommunication towers at their May 4 meeting.

Ever since the infamous "stealth tower' was erected up on Afton Hills Court by the Washington County sheriff's department, residents have continued to voice frustration with the tower and the future of towers in Afton.

"We do not want any more antennas up there, we do not want any more towers up there," Diane Dettmann, a resident of Afton Hills Court, said during the public hearing. "I wish we had done this a year ago."

Initially a proposal to amend the current ordinance due to confusion over the definition of "stealth" was brought forward by former commissioner Greg Penella at the December meeting.

Currently there is a moratorium on telecommunication towers, but this will expire in June which is why this was brought forward now.

The new ordinance will only allow new telecommunication towers to be constructed in the Industrial Zone, and any proposed towers outside of the Industrial Zone must be co-located on existing structures.

The Afton Hills Court stealth tower can not have any additions or co-location due to it's permit.

The planning commission had a lengthy discussion about the ordinance about whether the ordinance was strict enough.

Commissioner Anne Knutson did not vote in favor of the ordinance because she felt that towers should strictly be allowed in the Industrial Zone, no exceptions.

Several commissioners felt that the new ordinance addresses their concerns adequately and spending so much time debating was unnecessary.

"No offense to my fellow commissioners, but I don't feel that nickel and diming is the best use of our time," commissioner Scott Patten said.

The issue of stealth did arise once more because of neighboring properties of the Industrial Zone having to look at numerous towers.

In the end, commissioners made several changes to the language of the amendments, including designating only monopoles be the only form of new tower.

Next, the ordinance amendments will go before the Afton City Council for approval.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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