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50' Verizon Cell Tower going smack in the Middle of Historic Boulder Creek Downtown
by Adam Burgess
Tuesday Sep 10th, 2013 12:08 AM
Historic Downtown Boulder Creek is battling to prevent a Cell Tower in the heart of their historic downtown. So far Verizon will not back down even though the owner of the property wants out. Now Ben Lomond has an application by Verizon for another one on their Fire House...

Until it happens to your own town, this sort of news seems like another distant struggle, but when local residents of Boulder Creek recently discovered that a 50’ Cell Tower has been proposed smack in the heart of their historic town they were shattered. With so much open space in the Santa Cruz County’s unincorporated area, how is it possible that Verizon has decided that the center of Boulder Creek is the only place they can place a Cell Tower?

Since discovering the news, residents have scrambled to act in opposition to the location of the tower. The notices were mailed out just 2 weeks prior to the hearing and only to those within 1000’. The proposed development sign went up shortly after and the tower of flags went up days before the hearing. Most residents had only days before the Cell Tower hearing to educate themselves about the details and to prepare their arguments to present to Wanda Williams, Assistant Planning Director. Prior to the hearing a majority of the emails to the planning department were adamantly opposed to the tower. At the hearing there were dozens of residents who stood up one by one and unanimously argued against the tower citing concerns about the negative effects such a tower would have on our small historic town whose livelihood depends on its historic and natural beauty.

Wanda Williams postponed the final hearing until September 20th and asked Verizon to provide examples of 7-8 similar towers in small towns so she could visit 3-4 of them. She also requested that Verizon: 1) provide the planner with the addresses of alternative locations that were considered 2) provide additional justification for this location 3) document the generator noise levels 4) explain why the Rebecca Drive site in Boulder Creek cannot be expanded to accommodate this need. She gave Verizon one week to provide the updates… it has been months and Verizon has not come up with only a couple answers.

Residents have struggled with a stream of misinformation from the beginning of this battle. Frank Barron in the planning department has been telling residents it will serve to improve service to Boulder Creek and patch a service Gap in Brookdale, but at the hearing Verizon’s engineer stood up twice and announced and later reiterated that the tower is NOT intended to improve service in Boulder Creek or to cover a service gap in Brookdale. It is to accommodate for a future anticipated expansion of data load (non-voice 4G data). The engineer also stated that all of Boulder Creek’s phone service comes from the hills above.

After the 2nd hearing 5th District Supervisor Bruce McPherson’ s office confirmed to the local media that Verizon had pulled their application for the Boulder Creek Cell Tower. Shortly after, the Santa Cruz Sentinel published an article “Verizon Pulls Plug on Cell Tower”. Property owner Chris Currier had been telling the local residents that he spoke to Verizon about pulling the application “and they agreed.” All of this misinformation quickly spread and it wasn’t long before the entire town including the Parks and Recs Board and members of the Santa Cruz Planning department were all convinced that the tower’s proposal had been shelved. Employees of New Leaf were telling customers that the tower is no longer going in.

So where does this all leave Boulder Creek and the San Lorenzo Valley? It’s hard to believe that 4,900 or so people are going to “overload” Verizon’s current services. So as you may or may not know these towers are also big business. This is by no means a philanthropic effort to help the few residents in Brookdale get trouble-free service. Typically these towers are built under the so-called “need of service” to an area and then leased to other carriers much like Data Billboards. If you build them they will come. The cost of construction is recouped in a couple years through co-location to other carriers. From then on the money tree stands statically amongst the growing redwoods for decades. Perhaps another 10, 20 or 37 more feet are added to its height and more panels grow from its limbs all without further review requirements. Once this nail is in our town it marks us as a hub for more and bigger WCTs. Verizon even mentioned throughout their application that one of the benefits to this tower is offering the Boulder Creek the ability for co-location. It’s as if they’ve just brought a “Burger Barn” to town and we’re supposed to jump up and down like Arnie in “What’s eating Gilbert Grape.”

RF EFFECTS ON COMMUNITIES Are there health risks from Radiofrequency (RF) Radiation? Many say that’s still under debate, but many others say it’s already proven that there are. It’s a fact, regardless of what studies say, people believe WCTs (Wireless Communications Towers) are harmful or damaging to their health. Furthermore, when someone believes something is dangerous they will stay away from it. Real estate values surrounding the tower will suffer as a result and Boulder Creek’s commerce dependent on its natural and historical beauty to draw a seasonal influx of eco-tourists and wellness seekers is already suffering. Our local Yoga studio has already left and several other businesses are planning to leave because they are all within hundreds of feet of the tower.

Santa Cruz County has confirmed they acknowledge this perception that RF Radiation is dangerous and damaging to property values and has placed a 300’ moratorium for residential parcels and schools. County code 13.10.663 section A part 9: “Visual Impacts to Neighboring Parcels and Public Schools. To minimize visual impacts to surrounding residential uses and public primary or secondary schools, the base of any new freestanding telecommunications tower or building/roof-mounted wireless communication facility shall be set back from the property line of any residential zoned parcel, or the property like of any public primary or secondary school. a distance equal to five times the height of the tower if mounted upon a telecommunications tower, or a minimum of 300 feet, whichever is greater.”

Santa Cruz County cell tower zoning guidelines also strongly encourage co-location of cell towers before building on new sites in an attempt to minimize the number of cell tower locations. This further confirms that they recognize the perceived danger and understand that citizens do not want to live near them. When asked by one resident Santa Cruz Planner Frank Barron overseeing this application #131042, stated that he would “not want to live that close to a cell tower.”

At the previous hearing, residents asked Verizon after their two and a half year “exhaustive” search why they are not co-locating on the existing Tower site on Rebecca Drive as per Santa Cruz’s zoning guidelines for additional WCTs. Neither Verizon’s rep from “On Air” Aaron DeLao nor their engineer had any idea the tower existed. After the hearing one resident showed them a map from and they exclaimed, “Where is that?” Application is now in for Ben Lomond Tower in Town Central.

As of August 23rd it was confirmed that Verizon now plans to put another Tower in the Center of Ben Lomond in the Fire Department hose drying yard.

BIGGEST DANGER OF ALL Application is now in for another tower in Ben Lomond in Town Central. Frank Barron (Santa Cruz Planner) has waived Santa Cruz’s 300’ moratorium on residences/residential lots near the proposed Cell Tower site and has also waived the need for an EIR (environmental Impact Report) that CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act recommends. This is going to set a dangerous standard beyond the tower in Boulder Creek. Verizon will have case examples as to why its permissible to waive moratoriums on residences and a lack on need for EIRs on future Towers within the Santa Cruz county. It’s a wreckless and unnecessary maneuver that only rolls out the carpet for Verizon. While other planning departments all over the country work with the local population to prevent towers from popping up in residential neighborhoods, ours is facilitating their applications. Already Frank Barron,, Santa Cruz Planner overseeing the Verizon applications has assured us “it will look great.”, “it doesn’t matter if there are 7 or 10 electrical units, they will be enclosed by a fence so you won’t see them,” “there are no adverse health affects from RF” but admitted he himself would not want to live that close to a Cell Tower. Who is he serving the people who pay his salary or Verizon who perhaps paid… (a current planner was discovered to be paid off by Verizon in Nevada County)

HOW CAN YOU OBJECT? (Time is running out FAST!):

1) sign the online petition. Copy and paste in your browser and it will link to the petition.
2) Email Frank Barron (County Planning Department)
(831) 454-2530
3) Call Bruce McPherson (District Supervisor)
(831) 454-2200

FRIDAY September 20th, 9 a.m. 5th floor 701 Ocean Street
Please join us at the final Hearing !