[KHTS] – Santa Clarita City Council members voted 4-1 to prolong the discussion over whether Santa Clarita should allow a fake eucalyptus tree-shaped cellphone structure near a water tower in Valencia to improve AT&T coverage.
The move followed a more than three-hour discussion about the location, whether the service provider misled with its application and whether fake eucalyptus trees are ugly.
As a result of the vote, Santa Clarita city staffers were directed to see if there was a way to alleviate Northbridge residents’ concerns about the tower, and also to draft a resolution of denial so it could be voted on if the City Council wishes to reject AT&T’s plan.
Newly elected City Councilman Dante Acosta repeatedly questioned a Crown Castle representative, as well as AT&T, regarding their preparation for the appeal.
A Crown Castle representative who was contracted on behalf of AT&T said a coverage-area map questioned by Northbridge residents only showed voice service, which wasn’t the only problem area.
“I erred on the side of the residents,” Acosta said, noting there appeared to be discrepancies between the map presented to Santa Clarita City Council for the hearing and the one on AT&T’s website. The one on the site said it included voice and data, and contradicted the one shown at the hearing, Acosta said.
“You don’t appear to have all your ducks in a row,” Acosta said. “I have a problem with that.”
He also noted the Crown Castle agents working on behalf of AT&T didn’t have adequate information on their attempts to look at other sites for the eucalyptus tree-shaped facility.
The Planning Commission approved the cellphone structure, which would actually be a 47-foot tall fake eucalyptus tree adjacent to a water tower and several other shorter trees. It also calls for a 200-square-foot supporting structure at the base of the tree.
However, a couple dozen residents showed up to Council Chambers to argue an appeal claiming the tower was unnecessary, as there was no coverage gap, and the tree would only add “blight” to the area in addition to detracting from their property’s value.
The residents brought a video of themselves making calls on what they claimed were AT&T phones throughout the area where AT&T claimed there was no service.
The service providers’ reps said the residents’ evidence was anecdotal, but it seemed to be a factor for council members Marsha McLean and TimBen Boydston, who also questioned the presentation.
If Santa Clarita City Council members wanted to reject AT&T, they had to do so formally in writing with a resolution, which staff had to be directed to prepare. This move was put off until a date to be determined at City Manager Ken Striplin’s request.
Bob Kellar was the lone vote of opposition, noting while he sympathized with the residents, the issues affected more than just Northbridge.
If the city stopped all cellphone towers from going into residential areas, there would be a bigger problem — there would be no service.
“If this tower only affected you I would vote with you 100 percent,” he said to the residents. “But this affects everyone and we rely on this system.”
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