PINETOP-LAKESIDE – The Board of Adjustments met on July 2 and approved the recommended variance requested by Planning and Zoning for Cell One to erect a 180-foot telecommunications tower at Mountains Meadow Recreation Complex on Woodland Lake Road. That same board will now meet on Sept. 3 to hear an appeal on that action, filed by Dr. Travis Hamblin.
After receiving a request for a conditional use permit from Smith Bagley, Inc., d.b.a. Cellular One of North East AZ, to place a 180-foot telecommunications tower at MMRC ‘s back parking lot, next to the existing garbage enclosure. Community Development Director Cody Blake notified residents living within 300 feet of that location of the request and the date of the Planning and Zoning meeting.
On June 25 Planning and Zoning met and heard from two residents, Paul Adams of Zuni Lane, and Maureen Serrano of Woodland Road, both objecting to the location of the tower due to the proximity of their properties. Adams also expressed concern over the height and Serrano over health concerns.
Dennis Baker of Cell One said that the tower is needed in that particular area to alleviate dropped calls which include EMS and 911 calls. He said the additional 80 feet is needed to get above the trees and to have line of sight with the other towers that are located along Highway 260. He said the tower would also be designed as a co-location tower, allowing other companies onto the tower, with AT&T First Net being first.
Serrano said she does not object to the tower but its location. She said there might be another location in the park for the tower.
The board voted to recommend the variance to the Board of Adjustments, with recommendations to place a split faced cement block wall fence around the facility and to plant trees no more than 10 feet apart outside the fenced area to provide additional screening within six months of the completion of the construction and for Cell One to move an existing disc golf basket to a location specified by the town’s park staff. It was also agreed that Blake and Cell One would look at other areas within MMRC to see if there was another place for the tower.
On July 2 the Board of Adjustments held a public hearing. Black advised the board that another location had been decided upon which is located close to Woodland Road, next to the commercial property owned by David Renner.
Adams, Susan and Randy Moffit of Barbara Lane and Rob Ingels voiced their concerns at the public hearing regarding the variance. Paul Serrano had also filled out a card to offer comments but declined when he learned of the new site.
Adams said, “I walked the property this morning and that is the exact spot where the new location is where I thought that would be a prime location for this tower.”
Susan Moffit addressed the board saying the cell phone issue came up three years ago and it was only by code supposed to be 60 feet and at that time they were looking at 40 additional feet. She said it was denied due to health issues, property values and wildlife. She also brought up the fact that her request for four additional feet for the house she designed was turned down because of town rules. She said she was asked if there was any other way and she found another way. She also said they had poor cell service but obtained a booster and now have five bars. She also objected to the line of sight.
Moffit said, “So again I say, there is another way. If the town has the policy of 100 feet, the tower should remain 100 feet. That is all I can say.”
Ingels said, “The variance is a concern too, for myself, because of the excessive amount of height. I do not like looking at cell towers in the view in our community.”
Following board discussion regarding the need for cell phone service, especially for emergency, and not just for residents but for visitors, the board passed the variance and added two of the three conditions recommended by Planning and Zoning, eliminating the need to move the disc golf basket since the location changed.
On July 30 Blake received communication from Hamblin filing an appeal which will be heard on Sept. 3.
Hamblin stated, “I originally received notice of the issue from the town with a specific location at the back of the parking lot near the disc golf portion of the park. Although the location was not ideal, I felt it was far enough away from my property to not warrant any further protest on my part. I learned of the council’s approval of the new location while reading the local paper.”
Hamblin listed four reasons for his appeal: proper notice was not given of the new location; the 180-foot tower would be directly in the line of sight of the new home he plans to build; the tower location was changed out of concern for a neighbor over its proximity to their property and he would like the same courtesy, and though not all health concerns are valid regarding cell towers, he does have concern for his 10 children due to the close proximity of the tower.
The Board of Adjustment will meet immediately following the Sept. 3 council meeting. Due to COVID-19 only 24 members of the public will be admitted, with masks. Both meetings will be streamed live on Facebook.