Still no answers on cell towers

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By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Calaveras County planning commissioners have put plans for 10 new cell phone towers along Highway 49 on hold.

Cingular Wireless, a nationwide cellular phone company, has asked to build 11 towers along Highway 49, running the entire length of the county.

At a county Planning Commission meeting yesterday, commissioners were asked to issue conditional use permits that would allow the company to build eight of the 10 towers.

The other two towers would need second approval by county supervisors because the land they would be built on would require zoning changes.

The Angels Camp Planning Commission recently approved a use permit for a tower behind Kragen Auto Parts, on Highway 49 at the city's north end. The tower will resemble a pine tree to blend with its rural surroundings.

But county planners are not ready to approve any new towers on land under their jurisdiction.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with saying we don't need this kind of service until we can do it on our own terms," Planning Commissioner Suzanne Kuehl said.

Commissioners said they want to add language to the proposed conditional use permits that would require Cingular Wireless to allow other such companies to use its towers at a "reasonable, affordable price."

Without that language, commissioners feared other companies might start demanding their own towers.

"In their zeal to get more customers, these cell phone providers are going to take the path of least resistance," Kuehl said.

Commissioners, wanting more time to mull the issue, will hold another hearing on the cellular towers Thursday, Nov. 20.

Concerns over how the towers would impact homeowners along Highway 49 were also aired yesterday.

A handful of residents who live on Mager's Way in San Andreas where Cingular Wireless wants to build an 80-foot tower said the structure would be an eyesore that would lower property values.

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