PINETOP-LAKESIDE — The Board of Adjustment (BOA) met for a second time on Sept. 3 to consider an appeal by Dr. Travis Hamblin regarding the location of Cellular One’s 180 foot telecommunications tower at Mountain Meadows Recreational Complex.

After hearing from the public, and entertaining two motions which failed, the council approved a third motion moving the location of the tower once again.

On July 2 the BOA approved the recommended variance by Planning and Zoning to erect the 180-foot tower at MMRC at a location other than the original location which was to be placed by the existing garbage enclosure on MMRC’s back parking lot. The BOA had agreed, after the first hearing where they approved the variance, to explore finding another location further away from residential property. A second location found was found closer to Woodland Road by the commercial property owned by David Renner.

Dr. Travis Hamblin, who was originally notified of the proposed tower did not attend the first meeting, but filed an appeal on July 30 when he learned of the new location in the newspaper. His appeal was based on the fact that he was not notified of the change and his property line is about 50 feet from the re-directed tower location, and within 300 feet from where he plans to build his new home. Hamblin has 10 children and expressed a health concern regarding close proximity to a cell tower.

According to the draft minutes, though others had objected to the location of the tower previously, the Sept. 3 hearing brought out some new residents, who also expressed their concerns regarding rushing into the approval, health concerns, height of the tower and again, the location.

Director of Community Development Cody Blake said a re-notification to residents is not required by law.

Blake said that various locations had been discussed but did not meet the access needs of Cell One and being further into the park would cause a disturbance. He added that anywhere the tower would be placed in the park it would be visible, but the proximity to commercial buildings would conceal the bottom portion of the tower and should not affect the immediate neighbors.

Blake noted that with residents moving away from traditional phone lines and using complete cellular service, the need for cell service has increased to facilitate safety with emergency calls. He said though residents want their service to improve, no one wants a tower near them. Other than the two locations previous approved, Blake said other areas of the park would create a need for additional infrastructure and a need to trench ditches for electrical and fiber conduit.

BOA Chairman Stephanie Irwin said there are now three proposed locations. The third is furthest back near near the playground and its logistics will impact the facilities and access for Cell One but would be less objectionable to the residents.

Public Works Director Matt Patterson said that the tower needs major power and the fiber lines have to be tied in.

“This location has been so sought after, especially from Cellular One and other cellular companies, because the fibers lines are so close to this location,” Patterson said.

Patterson said Frontier Communications has a major switching station right next to the residents’ houses and is only two properties down from the location being discussed, and it brings the fiber in. Bringing the fiber in to the third location is a huge ordeal because there are no easements across the park and none available. Easements would have to be created to allow ingress and egress to these other locations and that is a safety problem with events being held at the park. Cellular One needs 24-hour access, making the first option the best because it would give them access directly off of Woodland Road.

Dennis Baker of Cellular One told the BOA that the power and fiber are not an issue for options one or two but access is. He said option one would come right off the road and stay off of the park and option two would be somewhat tighter due to the roads being a little smaller and narrower, but could still work.

“The advantage that option two has over one is it does not have drainage issues,” said Baker.

Baker said option one or two “are a toss-up” and said it would not make a difference on the power of the fiber. As to the third option, the power and fiber would have to be run underground and the town would have to give an easement for utility and an eight to ten-foot wide road access to the tower. Access is important because preventative maintenance is done once a month as well as if something goes wrong with the site. Option one would not have to have an FAA light installed on the top of the tower but he did not know about option two.

Member Jim Snitzer made a motion to approve Hamblin’s appeal and relocate the tower to location option three and Member Carla Bowen seconded the motion.

Vice Chairman Jerry Smith said he would like to amend that motion and have the board not pick any of the options but approve the appeal and wait for more information to be provided.

Bowen said she seconded the original motion and did not approve Smith’s suggested amendment.

The vote ended in a three to three tie, which failed.

Smith then made a motion to deny the appeal and allow the variance and placement of the tower to be located to option two. There was no second, and the motion died.

Irwin then stated that the original variance and location are approved.

Confused, the public asked Irwin for clarification.

She said a motion was made to deny the appeal and relocate it to option number three and that vote failed; there was another motion to deny the appeal and move the location to option number two and that motion died due to the lack of a second motion.

Bowen then made a motion to approve the appeal and allow the variance and placement of the tower to location option number three and Snitzer seconded.

The vote was approved four to two with Smith and Krigbaum as the nay votes.

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Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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