County weighs antenna issue |

County weighs antenna issue

Even with today’s cellular technology a phone call is not always an option in El Dorado County.

As many U.S. Highway 50 travelers have found out, there are a number of blackout spots in the rural areas of El Dorado County. Steve Ramsey, network manager for Mountain Cellular said the county’s high peaks and deep valleys can obstruct cell phone signals. To remedy the problem he said more cellular towers have to be set up.

“There is a pretty good need especially after you get past Pollock Pines and up to the Strawberry area,” Ramsey said. “That area is sparsely covered. There’s definitely a need because there’s tons of dead spots. Most of our wireless technology is what you call line of sight technology so it probably doesn’t go much farther than what you can see. The ideal location of one tower could cover 100 square miles.”

The El Dorado Planning Commission has been working with cellular companies to install more towers, but many residents complain that the towers ruin the aesthetic beauty of the county. The El Dorado Board of Supervisors put a moratorium on the installation of cellular towers in the rural residential areas of the county, so the Planning Commission could work out a solution to keep residents happy while expanding service.

“The board called for a moratorium on cell towers,” said Conrad Montgomery, county planning director. “It was limited. We were still allowed to go ahead and process cell towers in commercial areas. It was really limited to the rural region’s residential areas where cell towers were starting to become more of a problem with the neighborhoods particularly from a visual standpoint.”

The Planning Commission will consider an amendment regulating the placement of the cell towers at their regularly scheduled meeting tomorrow. Montgomery said there are a number of factors that the commission will weigh.

“What we want to do to the greatest extent as possible is create a situation where they are less visible or they are put on buildings or we’ve had some success with artificial trees being put up that have panels in them,” Montgomery said. “So that’s the goal of this whole thing.”

It is uncertain how many cellular towers will be needed to cover the entire county because need is based on supply and demand. County planning staff reported that about 35 new towers have already been approved.

Montgomery said the special use permits could also be issued to allow cell towers to go in areas that normally would not allow them. In addition, home owners associations would be given a say as to whether towers go up in their neighborhoods.

“The committee had two particular issues,” Montgomery said. “One had to do with schools and so one of the compromises that came out of that was that there would be no towers put up within 1,000 feet of a school and if there are, there would be a special use permit for any of those towers and second, if there is a tower that is going into a home owners association the home owners association would have the right to give approval to that going into the home owners association.”

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