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November 23rd, 2009 by Sameea Kamal
After hearing neighbors’ concerns at the November 17 meeting for the appeal of a conditional use permit to build a wireless tower on a church property, the city council requested the company’s representative return to the December 15 meeting with alternative designs for the tower.
The use permit was approved with a 4-1 vote by the city’s planning commission and would allow the 54-foot tower to be built as a “monopine” – camouflaged as a pine tree, at the Victory in Jesus church, located at 5221 El Monte Avenue.
According to city reports, wireless company T-Mobile is erecting the tower due to many complaints about a lack of reception in the area. The company would rent the area of the church property used, and would maintain the facility on a monthly basis.
However, a neighboring resident appealed the commission’s decision over concerns of health and design.
According to City Manager Jose Pulido, the staff is working with T-Mobile’s representatives to come up with alternatives that would fit in with the character of the residential neighborhood.
At the October 13 planning commission meeting, neighbors of the church expressed concerns with radio frequency emissions and the aesthetics of the project.
However, the city attorney pointed out case law that shows that there are no negative health effects from the tower, and that the city council cannot legally deny the use permit based on the health concerns.
Neighbors were also concerned about whether the tower would fit in with the neighborhood.
“The church is a pretty small building, so you’re definitely going to see that monopine,” said Community Development Manager Joe Lambert. “The applicants will have to work with me on a couple of different options: for instance, it’s always a good thing the more these things are disguised.”
A wireless facility at another church in Temple City was disguised within the bell tower, he said.
“That’s really a win-win situation,” he said. “In this case it’s going to be a little more challenging because the building is so small, and it’ll be difficult to achieve the height they need.”
Lambert said the company might be able to disguise the tower as a kind of religious based structure, such as a cross.
Some neighboring residents said the tower would an “eyesore” for their residential area, and preferred it be located somewhere more commercial. Others expressed concerns that it might cause property values to decrease.
The tower would be located between the church building and the home of resident Pastor Jesse Cisneros.
Though the pastor said he preferred the tower to be located further away from the front of the church, which is off the main street, he said he did not have any issues with the tower being built.
Cisneros has been a pastor at the church for eight years, and said he has heard many people complain about not getting cell phone reception in the area.
“If it goes up- great. If it doesn’t, I won’t be upset or surprised,” he said.