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County lacks cell-tower power

WOODSTOCK – McHenry County had the bars to hear Crystal Lake’s plea to temporarily halt new cell phone towers, but doesn’t have the legal ability to do so.

The County Board Planning and Development Committee on Thursday reviewed the Crystal Lake City Council’s request to halt new towers until the county can change its ordinances to protect neighboring residents through public notices and other means. Residents near a newly built tower outside of city limits are upset that they were not notified of the building or given an opportunity to voice concerns.

But state law limits what county governments can do regarding new cell phone towers – in fact, legal counsel told the committee, municipalities have greater control over such matters than counties.

“In our opinion, a moratorium is not an option,” Assistant State’s Attorney Jamie Rein told the committee.

Committee members decided instead to forward the request to the Legislative and Governmental Affairs Committee, in hopes of getting the county’s state legislators to change the law.

The City Council made the request after a 200-foot-tall tower was built near the intersection of Walkup and Hillside roads in unincorporated McHenry County near city boundaries.

Had the tower been built in city limits, neighbors would have been notified and given a chance to speak at a public hearing.

Oakwood Hills residents had similar complaints last year when a 192-foot cell tower was built on North Park Road, just outside village limits.

Mayor Aaron Shepley said he was happy that the County Board gave the city’s request prompt attention, but said he was not satisfied with the answer. However, he said, he has faith in the county’s state legislators to get counties’ powers to regulate cell phone towers augmented.

“I think we have one of the best Springfield delegations there are in [Sen. Pam] Althoff, [Rep. Mike] Tryon and [Rep. Mark] Beaubien, and if there’s something that can be done, they’ll get it done,” Shepley said.

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