County tower rules take two steps ahead

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By ABBY SOUZA

After going through every area planning commission and several public hearings, rules for wireless towers in Tuolumne County are closer to being final.

When they met Tuesday, Tuolumne County supervisors solved two of the four main problems with the proposed ordinance that arose during previous sessions.

The ordinance will regulate the placement, construction, upkeep and removal of towers used to connect wireless devices like cellular telephones to other forms of wired and wireless communication. The county has been working on the ordinance for nearly two years.

In less than an hour supervisors eliminated proposed height limits on "minor communication towers" and set a security fee of at least $5,000 for large communications towers.

In past discussions, there was much dispute about how tall a minor communication tower could be. A minor communication tower is an antenna used to get wireless connections from someone's home. Community Development Director Bev Shane said some of these towers are the size of a pencil.

In previous drafts, the ordinance said these towers could not extend 30 feet beyond the building they stood on.

However, Shane made the point that the county doesn't limit how big people's television antennas are. She suggested the board not set a height restriction.

"I don't see a need for us to get involved in regulating these," Shane said.

District 3 Supervisor Jim Peterson made a motion to not restrict the height of these towers. The motion carried 3-0 with District 2 Supervisor Paolo Maffei abstaining.

"I just wasn't sure how obtrusive they might be," Maffei said of his reasons for abstaining. "I was unsure."

Citing a conflict of interest, board Chairman Mark Thornton was not present for the vote. Thornton has said he was once approached by a company wanting to construct a wireless tower on his Groveland-area property.

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The Union Democrat
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