The issue has been hotly contested for six months, resulting in four public hearings without a final decision from the zoning administration, which approves building projects in the county.
Verizon originally submitted a permit to build a 50-foot cell phone tower disguised as a pine tree on a parcel on Highway 236 in downtown Boulder Creek in early 2013. However, a steadfast group of local residents have been against the size of the tower at that location, citing the tower as an eyesore in the historic downtown and the potential for harmful radio waves at a close proximity to homes and businesses.
The tower, according to Verizon contractor Aaron DeLao, would provide increased cell phone service to the north end of the valley, including service in a dead zone that currently exists between Brookdale and Boulder Creek. DeLao said another tower in the area is at full capacity, leading to the need for an additional tower in Boulder Creek.
At the Friday, Nov. 15 meeting, Zoning Administrator Wanda Williams listened to more than 15 comments from residents, all against the project, before sending Verizon back to the drawing board by pulling the application from the agenda.
“This is not going to fly at this location,” Williams said near the end of the hearing.
Williams told DeLao that he must change the size of the tower or look of the tower significantly — perhaps disguising it as a redwood tree, rather than a pine tree as described. If he came back with a similar design, she would be forced to deny it.
As an alternative DeLao said Verizon is looking at distributed-area system that would use five smaller towers at various locations along public right-of-way, rather than a single large tower. If Verizon finds the 5-tower distributed-area system will not work, then Verizon may revamp the application to build a tower at the original parcel on Highway 236. The new proposal will require a new public meeting with the zoning administrator, according to Williams.
Santa Cruz County planner Frank Barron who processed the application from Verizon, said the 50-foot antenna does not exceed Federal Communications Commission emissions standards, however several residents spoke against this claim during the meeting.
For more information, visit the County of Santa Cruz Zoning Administrator Agenda from November 15.