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Verizon told no on new cell tower
Nicholas Way site nixed by council 4
Cell tower
An existing cell tower on Angie. City officials would not let Verizon put in their own tower 350 feet away.

A new cell tower will not be allowed to be constructed in the industrial park northwest of Hatch and Mitchell despite a representative of Verizon explaining why the location would have maximized coverage for the company.
The decision was not unanimous, however.

In April the Ceres Planning Commission rejected Verizon's request for a 65-foot-high cell tower at 2907 Nicholas Way. Some neighbors to the west said they didn't want the tower there, citing concerns about aesthetics. Commissioners Bob Kachel and Hugo Molina voted against the majority, however, saying that aesthetics weren't enough the stop a tower which is permitted in the industrial park.

Verizon appealed the denial to the council on Monday.

Tom Westbrook, director of the city's Community Development Department, recommended denial on the basis that city policy has been for cell service providers to seek out existing poles for placement of equipment. An existing tower owned by SBA is located 350 feet away. However, Mark Lobaugh of Epic Wireless Group, insisted that the next position on the 82-foot-tall tower is at the 56 feet height, which is not high enough to maximize coverage for the cost.

"It's too low for us," Lobaugh protested to the council. "It doesn't adequately serve our coverage objective and as such we chose to construct a new tower down the street."

Verizon originally proposed a tower of 85 feet to better cover the industrial area north of the river, the airport and airport district as well as the residential area in northeast Ceres. The higher tower is not allowed because of proximity to nearby residential lots.

Lobaugh argued that the site meets all the design specifications of the zoning ordinance, including height, setback and tower design.

"There's nothing in the zoning that precludes a second tower from being constructed on this site," he said, adding that the area that would have been served is "seriously underserved" by Verizon. He showed Doppler type maps that showed how coverage was limited by a lower transmitter and receiver. He said "five to eight feet can make all the difference in the world."

"If we're going to spend $350,000 to construct a new communications facility, it needs to work," insisted Lobaugh. "There's no sense in co-locating on an existing tower that is not going to serve the objective."

By Westbrook's own admission, the zoning code "doesn't necessarily require the facility to be co-located." He added: "My job is to look at aesthetics." However, Councilwoman Linda Ryno stated that she really couldn't deny the tower since the zoning ordinance allowed it. Ryno, who said aesthetics is in the eye of the beholder, suggested that the city revamp its code to prevent towers from being built close together if aesthetics was the issue.

Ceres resident Leonard Shepherd argued that the city should allow the tower to allow Verizon to improve service. "To me it seems like we're nitpicking about aesthetics and the average citizen in Ceres doesn't give a rip about aesthetics in the industrial area," said Shepherd.

The council's decision was influenced by the protest of residents of the upper-scale community immediately northwest of the site. Randy Moring, a Canyon Drive resident who lives on a 14,000-square-foot lot, said he is concerned about aesthetics of the tower and ground building.

It was later suggested that the equipment building would probably not be visible over the fence.

Harinder Toor lives adjacent to the proposed site and said he felt the tower would hamper his ability to build higher end homes on vacant lots that he owns. "That would definitely affect my retail value," said Toor.

When the appeal came to a vote, it was supported by Ryno and rejected by Vice Mayor Bret Durossette, councilmen Mike Kline and Ken Lane, and Mayor Chris Vierra.