Cell tower heading back to planning commission

Carson City planning commissioners will have to reconsider its decision not to allow an 80-foot cellular tower in east Carson City.

City supervisors were presented Thursday with what they considered too much new information to make a decision to allow the tower's full height on a hill off Lepire Drive.

Cricket Communications appealed a June planning commission decision denying the tower, which was to be disguised as a pine tree.

Cricket attorney Gary Duhon said the company is planning its launch in the capital in mid-October, and a delay to wait for a second planning commission and, likely, supervisor decision, could be detrimental to the company.

Duhon said the company may consider a lawsuit to bring the issue to a close sooner.

He gave supervisors a detailed view of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. Duhon argued the planning commission's decision was discriminatory, would create service gaps thereby prohibiting service and was not supported by substantial evidence to deny the tower.

A 45-foot tower, which is allowed under city code, sits on the site now. The tower would provide coverage to some areas, but not to the extent the taller tower would, Duhon said.

Cricket, a division of San Diego-based Leap Wireless, is trying to expand its operation into Northern Nevada as a low-cost, community wireless provider.

Planning commissioners based their 4-to-2 decision largely on the argument the tower was too close to a residential area and a piece of recently purchased open space. Mike Pavlakis, attorney for property owner William Kugler, told supervisors Kugler plans to put large buildings on property adjacent to the tower, and the landscaping offered to mitigate the visual effects of the tower would also help shield the buildings from nearby residents.

Also, Duhon argued allowing the one tower would help prevent multiple, smaller towers from littering the community.

With this new information and the potential of a lawsuit, Mayor Ray Masayko said "playing hardball" at the appeal level wouldn't serve the city well.

"The record is not as clear as I'd like to see it," Masayko said. "This member is not comfortable with what's on the table."

Supervisor Richard Staub said with the issue potentially heading to court, making the record as perfect as possible is important. While Supervisor Jon Plank noted he didn't think any of the new information "will change their minds," he supported sending it back.

The planning commission could consider the issue as early as the end of this month.


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