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AT&T’s Proposed Faux Palm Tree near WinCo Sparks Debate

VICTORVILLE, Calif. (VVNG.com) – The Victorville Planning Commission recently convened to discuss a proposed construction project that has ignited controversy among residents. The project in question is a 74-foot tall wireless communication facility cleverly disguised as a palm tree.

Photo simulation of the proposed stealth faux palm tree.

AT&T Mobility is currently seeking approval for a Conditional Use Permit and Site Plan to construct a wireless communications facility near the WinCo Foods grocery store on Roy Rogers Drive. However, the proposed height of the facility has sparked controversy, as concerns arise regarding the stealth faux palm tree’s ability to blend in with the surrounding trees.

The Planning Commission was presented with two options for consideration. Option A, supported by the city commissioners, suggests approving the project with a reduced height of 42 feet, matching the adjacent wireless facility on the rooftop of the Midtown Spectrum building, while camouflaging better with existing trees.

Conversely, Option B proposes approving the project at the applicant’s proposed height of 74 feet, as favored by the applicant.

Neighboring property owners have voiced their opposition to the project through public comments submitted via email and online postings. Their concerns primarily revolve around the aesthetic impact, potential noise levels, as well as health and safety issues.

Despite these concerns, the Federal Communications Commission’s regulations do not allow the commission to prohibit the project based on radio frequency concerns, as the proposed facility falls within permitted range regulations.

The city has been informed by the applicant’s counsel that denying the proposal would violate the federal communications act. Nevertheless, the city has clarified its intention to lower the height to 42 feet instead of outright denial.

The applicant asserts that a height lower than what they submitted would detrimentally affect their ability to deliver services in the area. However, the city raises concerns about setting a precedent based solely on an applicant’s business plan. Granting the requested height could potentially open the door for future requests for taller towers based on business needs.

Seeking a compromise, the commission expressed a preference for a tower no higher than 60 feet. After extensive discussions, both parties have agreed to continue the dialogue at a later meeting in hopes of reaching a mutually acceptable solution regarding the height of the proposed facility.

Consequently, the applicant and city staff agreed to a continuation of the item to the December 13, 2023, Planning Commission meeting. This additional time will permit further analysis of facility heights and the presentation of a project proposal that satisfies both the City of Victorville and AT&T.

A preliminary description of the proposal indicates that the wireless communications facility would take the form of a faux palm tree, standing at a height of 74 feet. The antennas at the top would extend to approximately 69 feet, with the remaining height adorned with faux palm fronds to effectively mask the facility. Placed discreetly within a masonry equipment shelter at the rear of the fully developed WinCo grocery store site, the aim is to minimize the visual impact, aided by the presence of mature palm trees.

The addition of this wireless facility in the area is expected to significantly improve coverage along Amargosa Road and Hook Boulevard, enhancing the wireless signal for the vicinity. Additionally, it would address a notable coverage gap bounded by Tawney Ridge Lane to the north, La Paz Drive to the east, Seneca Road to the south, and Indian Wells Drive to the west. The applicant has provided propagation maps illustrating the need for enhanced wireless communications infrastructure in this specific region. However, it is important to note that the proposed height exceeds historical limitations for similar facilities in the area.

The AT&T representative made a statement, expressing that if they are required to decrease the height of the tower, they will have no choice but to open additional nearby locations in order to enhance coverage for the area. Consequently, the representative strongly urged the council to grant approval for the installation of a 74-foot pole.

Given the ongoing discussions surrounding the tower’s height, the council meeting has been rescheduled to December 13, 2023. Further deliberations are expected as the city strives to find a mutually agreeable resolution, taking into consideration the concerns of both parties and the wider community.


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