'Obtrusive' cell tower request riles residents
It'll be back to the drawing board – again – if Verizon Wireless continues the quest to locate a cell tower adjacent a major thoroughfare in one of Yorba Linda's prestigious residential areas.
So far, the company's attempts to solve “gaps” in coverage in an East Lake Village area have run afoul of a longtime city policy requiring cell towers to employ “stealth design” principles, in which wireless facilities are camouflaged to look like something other than what they are.
Verizon's design for a three-panel antenna was deemed “visually obtrusive,” “obvious to the casual observer” and “easily seen from dozens of surrounding...homes, public horse/recreation trails [and] public sidewalks,” according to a report from senior planner Greg Rehmer.
A number of residents in the neighborhood of Paseo De Las Palomas, just east of Paseo Del Prado, also opposed the design, which consisted of a five-foot-six-inch-tall, two-foot-wide cylinder, called a “radome,” placed on top of a 29-foot-high street light pole.
In fact, resident Michael Green carried a real-size cardboard mock-up of the cylinder Verizon proposed to mask the antennas to the City Council meeting that included the governing body unanimously upholding a 4-0 Planning Commission denial of a needed conditional use permit.
Council's action was “without prejudice,” meaning Verizon can reapply for the permit for substantially the same use before a one-year time period expires. Previously, city staff who handled the application requested Verizon consider a different location or design.
But, stated Rehmer's report, “the applicant never met with staff nor made any attempt to relocate/redesign the project as directed.” He also noted no state law prohibits local governments from “taking into account aesthetic considerations” for cell tower permits.
Verizon's letter appealing the Planning Commission denial complained of “inaccuracies” in a staff report that were relied on in decision-making and said the city overstepped its authority in “the scrutiny applied to this project,” arguments Rehmer's report strongly rejected.
Also criticized was Verizon's plan to install four new equipment cabinets, three between a sidewalk and horse trail and one beneath a 10-foot-wide multipurpose trail.
The council resolution upholding the Planning Commission denial noted: “There are reasonable design or location alternatives to the requested use that would have less adverse effects on the surrounding property or be less detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare.”
Six years ago, Verizon presented a similar proposal to the Planning Commission that involved installing the “radome” cylinder to camouflage the antennas on a tennis court light standard in a park less than a block away from the latest proposed site.
Commissioners denied that plan due to the same design concerns the city and residents expressed regarding this year's application.