PINETOP-LAKESIDE — For the first time in just short of two years the Board of Adjustment met on July 2 for a public hearing and consideration of a variance for the erection of a 180-foot telecommunications tower to be located at Mountain Meadows Recreation Complex (MMRC) on Woodland Lake Road. Following a public hearing, the council unanimously approved the variance.
Planning and Zoning heard the tower issue on June 25 and approved a conditional use permit (CUP) for the requested location with the stipulation that other locations be explored before the July 2 council and Board of Adjustment meeting. Stipulations to the approval included that the facility must have a split-faced concrete block wall to fence in the area, trees must be planted no more than 10 feet apart outside the fenced area to provide screening to the wall within 6 months of the completion of construction and Cellular One will be responsible to move the existing disk golf basket by the tower to a new location, directed by park staff.
Zoning for MMRC, is acceptable for a 100-foot tower, and though the 180 feet was recommended by the commissioners, variance approval for the additional 80 feet requested was forward to the Board of Adjustments for consideration.
Community Development Director Cody Blake told council that after the June 25 meeting, since the tower would abut the property owned by Maureen Serrano who spoke at the planning and zoning public hearing, the town took another look and found a different location within the park which is suitable for the tower. That location is next to the commercial property owned by David Renner. Entering MMRC the area behind the basketball court toward Woodland Road is the area where the tower will be erected. Blake said the new location is an acceptable alternative to the original site and agreeable with the public works director, the town manager and Cellular One.
Councilor Lynn Krigbaum mentioned that though the town does not officially own Woodland Lake Park yet, perhaps the area by the dam would be a good location in that they would gain elevation and may not need to make the tower as tall.
Cellular One’s Dennis Baker said that they would lose all the coverage south of that. Coverage is needed by MMRC and public works. The flagpole sites at Yosippity’s, Mahoney’s and Blue Ridge High School which were appropriate years ago are being taken out for new technology. In comparing rural with city, Baker said we are essentially four years behind the standard and it is market driven.
Baker said the location at MMRC will get them above the trees and in the line of site to the towers on 260 and will give them access to utilities.
Councilor Jim Snitzer inquired as to tower interference for the hot air balloons which take off at MMRC for the annual festival. Blake assured him he had checked and with balloons only launching to the north it is not a problem.
Opening up the meeting to a public hearing Paul Serrano was slated to speak regarding the original tower site location but now with the new location said he had no further comment. Paul Adams, a resident on Zuni Lane who also spoke at the Planning and Zoning hearing on July 2, said the new spot is a prime spot in that it is near industrial and not private property.
Susan Moffitt of Barbara Lane spoke on behalf of she and her husband Randy’s property and their opposition to the variance. Susan said that two years ago she needed a variance of four more feet for the house addition she designed and it was denied by the Board of Adjustments because of the rules. She said she did a redesign to made it work which she is now happy with. She presented drawings of their home with an illustration of the 180-foot tower inserted within the picture which shows the tower directly in their sight path which they would prefer to not have in their view. She said if the location requirement for MMRC is for 100 feet, it should only be for 100 feet. She said she had horrible cell service in her location but she got a Verizon booster which alleviated the problem and now has good service.
Her final words to the board was, “There is another way. The tower should be 100 feet.”
Rob Ingels, appearing as a private citizen, told the council that he has a concern with the variance. He said that in 1991 when the Weiss Tower in town (behind El Rancho and Realty Executives in Pinetop) erected a tower which required a variance, the expectation was that this tower, in a single location, would be where others would co-locate to benefit the community rather than add additional towers.
Mayor Stephanie Irwin inquired as to use of the tower by other carriers.
Baker said, “Cellular One is building it with four carriers in mind in this market. He added there would be a 12 foot separation with carriers and they will reach out to Verizon.”
Blake said, “One thing not mentioned is we are not just trying to get coverage for their phones but it is more of a general thing, if we want people to come and work and spend their money EMS priority calling (is necessary). People do not want to see a tower but service has to be rendered.”
Councilor Mazie Hastings inquired as to required lighting on the tower for FAA. Baker said the tower does not have to be lit and lighting is dictated by the FAA.
With the tower location relocated, there will be no need for Cellular One to move the basket. The tower will also be a lattice tower, not a monopole.
Smith Bagley, Inc. d/b/a Cellular One of Northeast Arizona will enter into a lease agreement with the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside for the tower sight, to be approved by council, currently estimated at $800 per month.