San Marcos Cell Tower Ordinance Opinion
We received this Press Release from a group of San Elijo Hills & Questhaven Hills Resident, working on a potential new City of San Marcos Ordinance for Cell Towers. We share it to keep San Elijo Hills & San Marcos informed on the process.
The San Marcos City Council reverses their position on a Cell Tower Farms in San Elijo and Questhaven Hills
Over community objections, Mayor Jim Desmond led the vote to approve a 35 foot, 12 panel AT&T cell tower at their Council Meeting on October 22. This cell tower is just 350 feet from homes in San Elijo Hills.
Since a T-Mobile cell tower already exists at this site, this established a “Cell Farm” with 24 micro wave antennas in the middle of San Elijo and Questhaven Hills. Vice Mayor Rebecca Jones, responding to residents objections and directed City Staff to develop a better cell ordinance.
When the new cell tower ordinance went before the City Council for approval on January 14, 2014 Mayor Desmond announced that he was not going to allow a vote. The Mayor then went on to back pedal on what he and City Staff communicated to the Union Tribune and residence of San Marcos and San Elijo Hills. He told staff he could not support “1,000 ft. of separation between cell towers”, an ordinance that “does not allow clustering” (aka Cell Farms), and an ordinance that does not allow more than one cell site per property.
Mayor Desmond is quoted in the Dec. 11, 2013 Union Tribune saying, “We’ve got nothing right now. We want to have rules about how they should be shielded and the maximum number of antennas on a property.” Jerry Backoff, Planning Director, said “San Marcos would limit cell towers to one per property, regardless of acreage.” At the Council Meeting Mayor Desmond changed his position 180 degrees.
The Mayor’s changes will make “Cell Farms” which he said he opposed possible. The Mayor stepped in and in effect rewrote the ordinance, this is inappropriate. He then directed the Planning Department to draft an ordinance he would support.
The Planning Department researched ordinances of other cities and hosted a workshop with residents and the cell companies before submitting the cell ordinance. They also included input from Jonathan Kramer (their FCC legal advisor and RF expert). The Mayor ignored the City’s process and recommendations and in effect ordered changes, all of which were what cell tower companies wanted. He did not direct staff to include any of the resident’s requests.
The Mayor was not going to allow public comment. Council member Chris Orlando said he felt that since the residents of San Marcos came to this meeting expecting a vote, they should be allowed to speak. Discussion ensued and, after another Council member agreed with Chris, the Mayor agreed to let the residents speak, but the City Council cut their comment time to 3 minutes.
The Mayor instructed staff to provide him an advanced copy of the ordinance before (releasing it to the public). The City Attorney said the ordinance is public record and therefore they cannot provide him an advanced copy.
Although AT&T had been present at all the cell tower meetings they were not present for this meeting. San Elijo and Questhaven Hills residents’ questioned why the City communicated to AT&T the ordinance was not being voted on and was being redrafted to include the cell industry requests. The City Council denied they notified AT&T of the ordinance status in advance of the meeting.
T-Mobile is still operating their out of compliance, 12 antenna cell tower at this San Elijo/Questshaven Hills site without a valid permit for almost a year. This matter was brought to the City’s attention by residents six months ago. Residents insisted that the cell tower be shut down until it is brought into compliance and a new permit approved–neither has happened.
You can view the January 14, 2014 meeting at: http://sanmarcos.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=423
The Ordinance segment starts at 49.3 minutes.