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Highland Pines wants cell coverage but no tower; request returns to P&Z

A future cell tower in Highland Pines off Iron Springs Road would help close the gaps in cellphone service in that area and on down to Skull Valley. But questions posed by residents in opposition and by county supervisors sent the applicant’s request back to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z).

The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors decided to return the applicant’s request for a wireless use permit back to the P&Z to answer questions it had regarding due diligence and other issues brought out at the April 4 supervisors’ board meeting.

The proposed 150-foot monopole has one interested carrier at this time, Verizon, and room for three more, plus police and fire, said Neal Talaske, with Pinnacle Consulting, Inc., for property owner Markin Allen Investments.

Michelle Lamoureux, also with Pinnacle Consulting, said Verizon has been looking for a cell tower site since 2002. The proposed property, located on the north side of Skyline Drive off Iron Springs Road, is 3.6 acres and vacant. Prescott National Forest lies to the property’s north and west borders, an undeveloped residential property is to the east, and Nevada Acquisitions owns the property to the south.

“This site has been in the works for three years. There is a huge gap in coverage, and we think it will cover the gap,” Lamoureux said. “This is the only site for constructibility and leaseability.”

Two residents indicated their support for the towers. Others oppose the tower.

Highland Parks resident Janis Schlarbaum stated her opposition. “It impacts the beauty of the forested area,” she said. “It’s not appropriate for placement in the middle of the national forest.”

Schlarbaum and her husband, Dean, questioned whether the monopole can withstand high winds, and if it were to fall, whether it would collapse upon itself, as the applicant states.

She said her property is 1,170 feet from the proposed tower.

Another property owner, Ken Karkula, wanted to know what other sites the applicant had looked at.

“I oppose this, not because I’m a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), but because of the lack of due diligence by the applicant. Highland Pines has about 400 part-time and full-time residents. The lack of signal can be a health and safety issue,” Karkula said.

He mentioned the need for access to Code Red, the county’s emergency notification system, and for medical response. One resident recently fell and broke his leg. He was able to use his cellphone because he fell in a room of his home that had cell service, Karkula related to the supervisors. In another medical situation, an ambulance connection with the hospital dropped the connection three times.

“We believe there are locations in Highland Pines that give much, much better service. We ask that you remand this to Planning and Zoning for the applicant to do his due diligence,” he said.

Supervisors asked about using a site on Mount Francis to the south. Lamoureux said Verizon currently has a cell tower at that location.

Robert Miller, attorney representing the Schlarbaum family, cited county ordinances requiring extra distance if property is within 1,000 feet of a residence and exceeds a certain height requirement.

Dave Williams, director of Development Services, confirmed that information, citing a provision in the county zoning ordinance that requires a 10-foot setback for every foot in height from other residential properties if the property is within 1,000 feet of a residential structure.

“In this case, given the height of the tower, that setback would be 1,500 feet from other structures,” Williams stated in a follow-up email April 6. “The applicant failed to request the setback waiver as part of their application, which is why staff made the recommendation to refer back to the Planning Commission for further review with regards to a setback waiver request.”

He added that the applicant will revise their request to include the missing waiver request.

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