South Lake Tahoe City Council slated to hear appeal of 112-foot cell tower planned for Ski Run area
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Some residents in the Ski Run Boulevard area are holding out hope City Council will squash plans by Verizon Wireless to install a 112-foot cell phone tower near the intersection with Needle Peak Road.
The tower was one of two monopines — essentially large cell phone towers disguised as pine trees — approved by the South Lake Tahoe Planning Commission in June.
Monica Eisenstecken, who was born and raised in Tahoe and now lives adjacent to the property where the tower is planned for, appealed the commission’s approval of the tower.
She cites three primary reasons for objecting to the proposal, including the unknown health impacts from living so close to a large tower, possible negative impact on property values and degrading Tahoe’s natural beauty.
“Nobody wants it there,” Eisenstecken said of her neighbors’ feelings toward the tower. “They don’t want it there at all.”
In an email, a Verizon spokesperson said the tower is intended to improve the provider’s coverage in South Lake Tahoe.
“As more people are doing more things, in more places, with more mobile devices, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in voice and data traffic on our network,” said Heidi Flato, public relations manager for Verizon Consumer Group. “We only expect that trend to increase. To support the growing demand, it’s often necessary to build new wireless facilities (cell sites) where customers — including residents, businesses, visitors, and emergency services providers — want and need to use our service.”
Verizon’s proposal involves installing a 112-foot stealth monopine at 1360 Ski Run Blvd. The proposal also includes removing two sheds on the property and installing a new shed to be used by Verizon as well as the property owner.
According to city staff, the city issued a special use permit to AT&T for a 110-foot monopine in 2013 at the same property. However, AT&T never used the permit and it expired. City staff could not find any public comments, either for or against, from that time.
Similarly, city staff said they did not receive comments this time around either.
Eisenstecken said part of the reason for that is because she never received notification from the city about the planning commission meeting. She received notice from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency that instructed her she would be receiving notice from the city. But it never came.
“Nobody knew about it,” said Gross, who went door to door in the neighborhood to notify residents.
Two people did speak before the planning commission — both were against the tower.
At the June meeting, city staff reminded the commission that local jurisdictions are limited in their ability to regulate telecommunication facilities.
For example, the standards for acceptable radio frequency emissions — the primary health concern regarding cell phone towers — are set by the Federal Communications Commission.
After some debate, the commission approved the plans on a 3-1 vote.
Eisenstecken’s appeal of the decision is set to go before City Council at its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 6. The meeting starts at 9 a.m. at City Hall, located at 1901 Airport Road.