Matthew Renda

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September 10, 2012
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Verizon tower dispute persists

The fight over a proposed construction of a cell phone tower continues as landowners are embroiled in a land use dispute with the county.

The issue revolves around telecommunications company Verizon Wireless’ plans to construct a 48-foot tower on a Nevada Irrigation District-owned property off Pleasant Valley Road near Lake Wildwood.

Verizon representatives claim the tower is needed to enhance cell phone service to underserved residents in the area, particularly on the north shore of Lake Wildwood.

Peter Lockyer and Juliet Erickson, who own property adjacent to the site where the tower is proposed to be built have opposed the construction plan. In December 2011, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors denied the couple’s appeal and approved Verizon’s plans to construct the tower.

In January, Lockyer and Erickson filed suit in Nevada County Superior Court in an attempt to block the construction.

Since then, Verizon has amended its plans for the tower, relocating the site about 50 feet so that it complies with setback requirements at the site, said Nevada County Planning Director Brian Foss. The relocation required a new use permit, for which Verizon has applied.

The new use permit was approved by the county, and once again contested by Lockyer and Erickson.

“They still oppose the construction as it violates a basic ordinance the county staff has consistently ignored,” said Alan Haley, a lawyer representing the couple. “The ordinance states that any construction shall not stick above the ridge line. In this instance the tower will be about 18-20 feet above the ridge line.”

Haley said the construction could pave the way for other companies to build “a whole forest of towers up there.”

The couple has also submitted plans for the construction of a house and a separate garage on the parcel next to the NID-owned property. The county is requiring Lockyer and Erickson to maintain some vegetation on the property to obscure the view of the structures from the road below. The garage would not be visible from below, but the county wants to keep the vegetation because it will help camouflage the communication tower, Haley said.

The tower would be camouflaged to look like a pine tree, Foss said.

Don Queen, who resides on the north shore of Lake Wildwood, said the lack of cell phone service means residents must have a land line, which is an additional expense.

Queen also believes the dearth of service presents a public safety issue.

The county will hold the appeal hearing Oct. 23, Foss said.

The lawsuit filed by Lockyer and Erickson in January is on hold pending the results of the October hearing, Haley said.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or call (530) 477-4239.

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The Union Updated Nov 16, 2012 11:59AM Published Sep 13, 2012 07:11AM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.