Homeowners within the 2900 block of Wapiti Court in Stallion Springs are expressing concern that soon a 65-foot AT&T tower will be built in the front of a residential piece of land, not far away from their own property.
Work on the cell tower foundation at the end of a small cul-de-sac began recently.
The Kern County Planning Commission issued a conditional use permit on April 12, 2018, with AT&T leasing 406 square feet of property on 4.5 acres of land, according to the staff report.
Some residents aren't happy with that decision.
“AT&T had many options on where to place a cell tower in Stallion Springs. We are surrounded by open space and their decision to use a residential property in a small lot subdivision is extremely narrow sighted,” neighbor Randy Weinstein said in an interview.
Mike Greer submitted a letter opposing the project on April 4, 2018.
“My biggest concerns are for aesthetics of how the AT&T tower and building next to it will look on the hillside, the affect on property values if I had to sell the house, and the unknown health risks," Greer said in an interview.
He added, "I don’t have any ill will toward my neighbors, but I wouldn’t have bought the house if I knew it was going in."
Other neighbors said the area needs the tower.
“We need cell service back here badly,” said Thomas Kackert, who lives a couple of blocks away from the project. He added that cell phone reception helps a person who may not be able to make it to a landline during emergencies.
Communication towers are allowed near or on a residential area upon the issuance of a conditional use permit, although they have to meet certain standards.
“The Kern County zoning ordinance requires communication towers to utilize stealth design when located within one mile of another freestanding wireless communication facility or for tower facilities located in, or within 300 feet of any residentially zoned area,” said the staff report. The zoning ordinance for wireless communication facilities is 19.91.
The report added that the tower will be camouflaged using monopine technology, will not exceed 80 feet in height and will “comply with all current Federal Communications Commission’s Guidelines and Office of Engineering and Technology Bulletin 65, which outlines rules governing permissible exposure levels to radiofrequency emissions.”
Three letters from the public and private entities are included in the Planning Commission's staff report.
The property owner where the AT&T tower will be located could not immediately be reached for comment.
Some residents have opposed granting conditional use permits for proposed cell phone towers in Stallion Springs, Bear Valley and other parts of greater Tehachapi. Some projects have been referred back to Kern County Planning Department staff for additional consideration.
The process for a communication facility requiring a conditional use permit starts with the applicant filing paperwork. Then a hearing is scheduled before the Kern County Planning Commission, notices are sent by mail to the neighborhood, an advertisement is posted in a newspaper and then the hearing allows for public comment, said Craig M. Murphy, assistant director of the Kern County Planning & Natural Resources Department.
He added that if someone appeals the conditional use permit, it will go before the Kern County Board of Supervisors. An appeal requires a person or organization to submit paperwork within 14 days of the Planning Commission's final decision and requires a $540 fee.
Some have expressed their concern that the Stallion Springs Community Services District should have been involved in the project.
David Aranda, interim general manager for the district, said, “Number one, we were told we don’t have that authority to stop something of this nature and two we are not going to get involved in something that has real detrimental effects to property owners.”
Aranda said the Stallion Springs Declaration of Establishment of Restrictions, Easement, Conditions, Covenants and Reservations for Tract 3445 is a document outlining what can be built or allowed on properties in the area. The district can go out to investigate to see if there is a violation due to a complaint, but the document can’t conflict with Kern County zoning ordinances.
The Planning Department's staff report said the Eukon Group, on behalf of AT&T, listed reasons in favor of having the tower on the property due to a “significant gap” in coverage.
Ryan Oliver, director of corporate communications of AT&T West Region, said in an email, “We build our cell towers based on the needs of our customers and follow all regulatory and municipal guidelines.”
AT&T did not respond to questions about whether notices were sent to neighbors and why this location was selected.