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Santa Clarita delays cell tower after public outcry

Posted: May 28, 2014 4:32 p.m.
Updated: May 28, 2014 4:32 p.m.

Hours of discussion Tuesday led to another delay for a proposed cellular structure in the Santa Clarita Valley — this one in Valencia.

Following a stream of public speakers, members of the Santa Clarita City Council decided Tuesday night to delay decision on whether to allow construction of a disguised cellphone tower near a water tower in the Northbridge area.

The project’s applicant, AT&T, as well as representatives from Crown Castle, said the proposed 47-foot-tall structure — which would be disguised as a eucalyptus tree and placed on a graded pad that already houses a 52-foot-tall water tower — is necessary to fill a significant gap in cellphone coverage in the area.

The proposed project, which would be located on Fairview Drive in Valencia, according to the City Council agenda item, also includes a 240-square-foot equipment shelter located near the tower.

Dana Cop, director of external affairs for AT&T, said Tuesday that cellphone and smart phone use has increased steadily in recent years and that, because of the hilly terrain of the Santa Clarita Valley, it can be a challenge to find an appropriate location for towers.

“The specific site is important to fill the large coverage gap that we have,” she said.

The project had previously been approved by the city Planning Commission on a 3-2 vote but was appealed to the City Council.

Public questions
A collection of Northbridge residents protested the tower, saying they don’t want it in their neighborhood. They also challenged AT&T’s claim of a coverage gap.

Those who appealed the project to the City Council presented a video showing residents making and receiving phone calls on what appeared to be AT&T phones throughout the area where the company claimed a coverage gap.

Speakers also criticized the aesthetic impacts of the project, the potential noise generated and its potential effects on property values and safety in the area.

Brent Downs, a Valencia resident, characterized AT&T’s claims as misleading.

“People move to Santa Clarita to escape urban blight, not take it with them,” he said. “This cell tower is significant blight.”

Almost every speaker at Tuesday’s meeting spoke against the project, though a few spoke in favor.

'Best quality'
Council members raised concerns similar to those of the residents, posing questions regarding the noise and aesthetic impacts of the project and whether another site could fill the service gap that AT&T says exists.

Council members eventually voted 4-1 to continue the item to a date uncertain, reopen the public hearing on the topic and request the applicant come back with some additional information to answer questions raised by the council.

“I personally just want the neighborhood to get the best quality decision that they can,” said Mayor Laurene Weste at Tuesday’s meeting.

Council members also directed city staff to draw up a resolution to deny the project so, in case council members should decide to do so, they have that option at the future meeting.

Councilman Bob Kellar was the lone dissenting vote and said he thinks cell towers, though not perfect, are needed.

“If the tower only affected you, I would vote with you 100 percent, absolutely,” Kellar said to the crowd.

Other towers
While not every cellular structure or tower attracts the same level of public input as this one, Tuesday’s meeting was not the first time a proposed cell tower has run into problems passing muster with Santa Clarita Valley residents.

In 2010, some residents in Baker Canyon in Canyon Country raised issue with a planned Verizon Wireless tower in their area. The proposed tower was later moved to a different location.

Another proposed tower in Stevenson Ranch, this one from T-Mobile, also raised questions and caused concern for residents in the area in 2011 and 2012.

In those cases, residents have also cited concerns similar to those raised Tuesday.

Jeff Hogan, Santa Clarita’s planning manager, said city staff works to examine potential impacts.

“We try and minimize the impacts of the location to neighbors and residents,” Hogan said Wednesday.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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