If all goes well, the City of Menifee may get a chance to conceal a rather tall, unsightly, cell phone tower as a tree or windmill.
Yesterday, the Planning Commission listened to representatives from Metro PCS, a pre-paid wireless communications company, seeking to add its own antennas on an existing cellphone tower.
The tower, located 25770 Bundy Canyon Road, was originally placed there in 2000 with approval from the County of Riverside, back before Menifee had become a city. Since then, the City of Menifee adopted requirements on cellphone towers, particularly that they cannot exceed 70 feet in height.
But this particular tower is nearly 107 feet tall, having been grandfathered in before the city adopted any requirements.
City Hall wanted to deny Metro PCS' application on grounds that the tower is out of compliance, even though it was grandfathered in, thereby putting pressure on the tower's owner, American Tower Corp, to replace it with a shorter tower, or force Metro PCS to erect an additional tower.
However Metro PCS didn't want to erect its own tower citing costs, and preferred to utilize available space on this existing tower.
Metro PCS claimed it has approximately one million users throughout the greater Los Angeles area, which it considers Menifee to be a part of. They exhibited a chart showing how much lack of coverage Metro PCS customers in Menifee experience, versus how much improved coverage they'll get if allowed to place their antennas on this cell tower.
"This is also a safety issue" claimed a representative of Metro PCS. "We have the opportunity to improve 9-1-1 coverage in this area."
The five members of the Planning Commission discussed issues and options including alternate cell tower locations and increased electric and magnetic fields. But after Metro PCS explained they already evaluated alternate locations and that adding their antennas to the tower would not pose any additional EMF hazards, the Commission seemed divided on finding a resolution.
"I'd rather see five users on a tower than put up five more towers", planning commissioner Bill Zimmerman spoke. "Let's find a workable solution: the best case scenario is where Metro PCS can increase its coverage, and the City has an opportunity to turn this tower into something more visually appealing."
Zimmerman went on to ask representatives of Metro PCS and American Tower Corp if they'd be willing to present plans to decorate the tower as a tree, windmill, or water tank. Bonnie Blair, legal counsel for American Tower Corp responded that they'd be willing to work with city staff to find a solution, but that cosmetic changes Zimmerman suggested could cost as much as $500,000.00.
Commissioner Mark Matelko argued that, "Two wrongs don't make a right", referring to the cell tower already being out of code. Zimmerman responded back, "Even if we deny this application, the tower is still going to be there. At least we now have the opportunity to make it look better."
In the end the Commission voted to delay their decision, giving Metro PCS and American Tower Corp another two weeks to present plans to make cosmetic changes to the tower. On August 8th another hearing will take place.
|Existing Metro PCS coverage in Menifee (white area represents no coverage).|
|Improved Metro PCS coverage in Menifee if allowed to place their antennas on tower.|