Two cell tower projects lost some community clout May 15 when the North Coast Advisory Council declined to recommend either project to the county.
Council members voted counter to advice from their Projects/Land Use Committee, which had reviewed both projects in depth and recommended their approval.
However, the lack of NCAC’s recommendation isn’t likely to affect the final outcome, according to county Supervisor Bruce Gibson and planner Airlin Singewald, who told council members that supervisors have little wiggle-room in such issues, and federal law nearly requires them to approve those projects because they provide public and emergency communication.
“It’s not the county ignoring you,” Gibson said. “Federal law preempts local decision making on cell towers if they meet federal regulations.”
“The county cannot deny it based on health effects,” Singewald said. “What we can do beyond that is to require field testing after the project is built to make sure they are complying” with emission limits.
The council considered two separate wireless communication facilities: a Verizon installation at Coast Union High School, 2850 Santa Rosa Creek Road (which garnered a vote of three in favor and five opposed), and an AT&T facility at the Linn-vestments-owned medical building, 2150 Main St. (a reapplication for a project considered last year). The motion to approve the latter failed for lack of a second.
Most council members appeared swayed by Claudia Harmon Worthen’s presentation about possible health hazards from cellular towers. She said she’s especially concerned “for children and the elderly,” and says the two projects “are in the wrong places.”
The projects under review are on the roof of the high school’s administration-library building, and in a Main Street medical building currently shared by a doctor, dentist and a medical lab (where people go to have blood drawn for tests, often on a weekly or monthly basis).
Council members didn’t know if the Main Street site towers would improve AT&T’s signal in weak reception areas. An audience member said the school site isn’t likely to affect communications beyond the boundaries of the rural campus itself.