ST. GEORGE — Protesting a planned cellphone tower, concerned homeowners braved the rain Thursday to hold picket signs and proclaim “no Verizon on our horizon.”
The demonstration was held at the Sunbrook Golf Club, where organizers raised orange weather balloons to demonstrate the height of the planned Verizon Wireless tower. Community members at the event huddled under umbrellas as they raised their signs and listened to each other speak about how the cellphone tower would negatively impact them.
The 80-foot high tower is slated to be built just across the city line in Santa Clara, and would spoil the mountain views and lower the property values for homeowners in Sunbrook Communities in St. George, said Menlo Smith, an original developer for Sunbrook and protest organizer.
“Verizon could go any of a number of different places with that tower, but they have chosen what I think is just an ignominious, terrible disgrace of a location for that tower,” Smith said. “It will be the absolutely dominating feature of that entire view zone.”
Verizon’s tower would be in the way of the “iconic” views of Pine Valley Mountain, Red Mountain and Snow Canyon for residents and visitors at Sunbrook, Smith said.
Since the tower was approved by the Santa Clara City Council in August, Smith has now filed a lawsuit against the city for approving the cell tower.
“We’re not opposed to a tower,” Smith said. “We just think the tower should go in a place that is appropriate for a cell tower like that, not in the middle of one of the most scenic views in the Southwest.”
The Santa Clara City Council didn’t have much leeway when it came to approving the cellphone tower though, assistant city attorney Devin Snow said. To get approval to build the tower, Verizon Wireless needed to apply for a conditional use permit — a permit Snow said cities legally must approve if all the conditions for it are met.
“Cities have very little discretion under state law when it comes to approving conditional use permits,” Snow said. “We didn’t have the discretion to say no.”
After the Santa Clara City Council originally rejected a proposal to make the tower 100 feet, Verizon offered to lower the tower to 60 feet. This proposal was passed by the City Council, but because of federal permit regulations, Verizon would be allowed to raise the tower to 80 feet without council approval.
Even if the city of Santa Clara couldn’t legally disapprove of the cellphone tower, Snow said the City Council could require Verizon to follow additional guidelines that would make the tower appear less intrusive. In the end, Verizon Wireless agreed to conditions to make the cellphone tower look like a water tower, he said.
Santa Clara councilman Herb Basso even suggested making the tower look historical, according to Santa Clara City Council minutes for its Oct. 4 meeting.
A cellphone tower disguised as a water tower would still be a nuisance, said Bob Routsong, Sunbrook homeowner and protest organizer.
“As time goes on, we believe other (cellphone) providers will want it up to 100 feet,” Routsong said. “No matter what it looks like, we don’t want it in our view.”
Neither representatives from Verizon Wireless nor its attorneys immediately responded to St. George News’ requests for comments. Smith said he spoke with workers at the site of the planned tower who told him the tower is supposed to be constructed within the next several months.
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