Cell tower decision tabled again in Nevada City | TheUnion.com

Cell tower decision tabled again in Nevada City

This art rendering shows the project site, 109 North Pine St., and area within its 300-foot radius boundary. Representatives from Verizon Wireless proposed to build eight cell antennas mounted on four pipe mounts on various points atop the building.
Submitted Art |

The story has been updated to reflect correction of Richard Cristdahl’s comments:

Residents who attended the Thursday Nevada City Planning Commission meeting walked out without knowing the final decision on a use permit application from Verizon Wireless to erect eight cell towers on the rooftop of a building in downtown Nevada City.

The building in question is located at 109 North Pine St. and houses the Friar Tuck’s restaurant. It is co-owned by Nevada County, as well as private owners— Kenneth and Kay Baker, and Gary and Patricia Tintle.

Planning Commissioners voted 4-0 to reconsider the cell antenna application on Sept. 15. The decision came after a motion to deny the Verizon Wireless project, based on its inconsistency with the general plan and with the aesthetic of surrounding buildings, resulted in a tie vote.

While Commissioner Gail Damskey and Steffen Hawkins-Snell voted for the motion to deny the application, Chairman Dan Thiem and Commissioner Skyler Moon voted against. Vice-Chair Stuart Lauters recused himself from the vote, citing the proximity of his residence to the proposed cell antenna project.

As part of the decision, staff will come back with two sets of reports­ — one in support and another against approval, during the Sept. 15 meeting.

The applicant could provide suggestions to address issues that factored into the motion for denial.

The decision was made after more than 30 people crowded into city hall in an attempt to thwart the use permit application which representatives of the communications giant claimed would fill a service gap in Nevada City. The meeting began 1:30 p.m. and lasted more than four hours. The meeting was a continuation from a June 16 public hearing, during which many attendees expressed frustration over the impact of the project to their health and property values, among other issues, prompting planning commissioners to table a decision.

Project representative Mark Lobaugh, of Epic Wireless, Inc. said he and commissioners have been in discussion for over six months on the project. Verizon representatives have also adjusted the cell tower project based upon feedback from the community, which resulted in the removal of a generator and a microwave dish, as well as a smaller antenna.

“There is definitely a need for the site,” Lobaugh said.

Lobaugh offered to present a 4-foot antenna as well as a 6-foot antenna as alternative proposals. But it was not enough to quell resentment from many attendees.

Richard Cristdahl, a resident of Nevada City since 1999, said he doesn’t see a need for the project, as Verizon has very good coverage in the area. Furthermore, if someone lives within 1,500 feet of a cell tower, he or she has 300 percent chance of getting cancer, he said.

“Your liability is not going to stop there. There is the issue of this action causing a decrease in everyone’s property so it would be reasonable to assume that these property owners would form a class-action suit against the city and the owners of the Friar Tucks building to recoup their losses,” Cristdahl added.

Lorraine Reich, a resident and lawyer from Grass Valley, argued that the citizens do not have equal representation on the subject as the applicant. She said she has asked the city to invite an expert for residents who would talk about various environmental impacts of the project.

“We were never given the approval that we could have an expert today,” she said. “You have all agreed to uphold the Constitution, and as a fundamental principle of the Constitution, we have a principle called notice of due process, an opportunity to be heard, and all of that is being denied here.”

Michael Anderson, the CIO of Spiral Internet, a Nevada City based internet service provider, was one of the few people who spoke in favor of the project.

“I support this project because cellular communication is a vital part of any community’s broadband infrastructure requirement and strategy, and will be absolutely necessary for those communities to be successful in the global economy of the 21st century,” Anderson said.

During the same meeting, the Planning Commission welcomed three new members in a swearing-in ceremony administered by City Clerk Niel Locke. Councilwomen Reinette Senum and Valerie Moberg appointed Skyler Moon and Steffen Hawkins-Snell, respectively, to the commission during a city council meeting on July 27.

Damskey is Councilmember David Parker’s pick for the commission. Parker told The Union previously that he has been interviewing candidates for the position since his swearing-in ceremony, but it was difficult to make the final decision. Damskey relocated to Nevada City after moving from the Bay area in 1976. In an email to The Union, she said she is excited in being a part of a new group of leaders on the commission and city council.

“There’s a lot that happens here in town that is not the ‘written rule’ but left to interpretation. My hope is that we can clarify a lot of the personal and egotistical artistic license that distorts and alternates fact,” she wrote. “Nothing good will ever come from a poor lack of communication or lack of transparency.”

Thiem accepted the nomination as the new chairman while Lauters was elected as vice chair.

To contact Staff Writer Teresa Yinmeng Liu, please email tliu@theunion.com, or call 530-477-4236.

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