Telecommunications law makes it hard to beat these Cell phone installations, at least on health or safety grounds, but we at Green Legal Solutions have delayed them for thorough environmental review under CEQA (aesthetics and similar issues are grounds for appeal).
In Lake County, we stopped a ridgeline Cell phone tower at the Supervisors level, because a full review of a planned series of repeater stations was needed. Verizon has big bucks for lawyers, but people power and public interest law can go a long way. And AT&T is coming soon to a tree near you.
Here's the article from this morning's Marin IJ for all interested in the process:
County commission OKs Fairfax cell tower plan despite neighborhood protests
Posted: 09/10/2012 03:46:59 PM PDT
A hotly-contested plan by a telecommunications giant to erect a 50-foot cellphone tower disguised as a tree on a ridge near Boy Scout Camp Tamarancho above Fairfax was approved Monday by a county commission as neighbors vowed to bring their fight to the Board of Supervisors.The county Planning Commission, saying Verizon Wireless made a compelling case for the tower in light of a coverage gap along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, unanimously approved the proposal despite protests from neighbors who live almost a half-mile away.
Mark Fiore of Bothin Road in Fairfax, a Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist, said neighbors will chip in the $770 needed to appeal the decision to county supervisors.
Commissioners agreed that after a five-year planning effort, Verizon had come up with an acceptable, largely unobtrusive plan that would improve cellphone coverage, speed emergency response time and boost public safety. Two commissioners relayed stories of
experiences with medical emergencies in which cellphone coverage was not readily available.
In any event, commissioners agreed with a Verizon lawyer who cautioned that federal
law limits the ability of local agencies to restrict such facilities.
"This cell tower is situated in such a way that will have virtually no impact," said Commissioner Katherine Crecilius.
"Generally I'm against putting structures on ridgelines, (but) this just becomes another odd tree," added
Commissioner Randy Greenberg, saying the project "in no way is a precedent for or enables other ridgeline applications.""In general, I think this is an appropriate location," said Commissioner Don Dickenson. "Our hands are tied" by federal regulations, noted Commissioner Wade Holland, adding Verizon "has jumped through the hoops" with a diligent planning effort.
Several speakers indicated support for the plan, including former Sausalito fire chief Steve Bogel, who lives on Manor Road in Fairfax. "I hope this system will improve our service for our convenience and for public safety," he said.
But a dozen area residents rose to oppose the tower, calling it a blight on the ridgeline, a radio wave health hazard, a "lightning rod" for fire danger in a "tinderbox" area buffeted by wind, and argued that alternative sites were not adequately reviewed.
Nancy Morita of Iron Springs Road called the tower plan an "oversized industrial pollutant" that would spew hazards around the clock to satiate the "greed of an outside corporation." Neighbor Rebekah Collins called the tower an "enormous liability" that would attract lightning strikes and trigger wildfires that would sweep down the canyon. "Why is it that we have to sacrifice our peace of mind and our quality of life for this project?" she asked.
Others asserted Verizon had not studied other sites in enough detail — or even shown that enough of a "coverage gap" existed to merit the tower.
The commission disagreed with just about every neighborhood argument, noting that the plan called for a tower 70 feet below a site turned down by a county zoning official last year, and said the latest plan was far superior.
After years of effort in which Verizon said it reviewed 24 alternative sites, including three at Tamarancho, lawyers for Verizon called the new plan "the least intrusive means of addressing this significant coverage gap." Boy Scouts officials agreed.
The latest plan moves the "stealth" tree tower site at 1000 Iron Springs Road nearer a cluster of trees, and "will have little if any visual impact," according to Verizon attorney Paul B. Albritton. "This vital infrastructure fully complies with the Marin County Development Code, the Marin County Telecommunications Plan, the Marin Countywide Plan and the California Environmental Quality Act, and the denial of the application would violate the Telecommunications Act of 1996," Albritton advised.
The 50-foot-tall "monopine" tree would have 12 panels of antennae disguised as branches. A 1,216-square-foot area would be enclosed by a 6-foot-tall chain-link fence and include a 184-square-foot equipment shelter, a standby generator and a 210-gallon fuel tank.
Officials noted that AT&T is interested in using the tree antenna, a move that would require a design review permit application.