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Cell phone company wants to put up pole

by Christy Chalmers

Add cellular phone towers to the list of items not wanted in the Carson Valley’s back yards.

Three times this year, Nextel Communications has proposed sites for a monopole to serve the growing numbers of cell phone users in the Carson Valley. And three times, Douglas County officials have told Nextel to look elsewhere.

Now Nextel is looking close to the heart of old Minden – at the county’s communications center on Eighth Street, across from the venerable old courthouse and within a softball throw of Minden Park.

The county commission on Thursday will consider a resolution allowing the lease of space at the communications center for the pole. It doesn’t allow the actual construction of a monopole; before that could happen, a special use permit would have to be issued and the design of the pole would have to be reviewed and approved.

Still, tentative drawings show a phone tower peeking over the tops of the mature trees visible looking north on Esmeralda Avenue, which runs between the park and the courthouse. County Manager Dan Holler said the company is proposing a 68- to 75-foot-tall monopole.

“It doesn’t look a whole lot more intrusive than those telephone poles,” said Holler, referring to the 45-foot-tall poles that string utility lines throughout the neighborhood. “There’s not much of a neighborhood view there now. It’s mostly businesses around that area.”

– Beg your pardon? Minden Town Board Chairman Ray Wilson begs to differ.

“I guess they want it where everyone can see it,” he said. “There’s no way you can put that in a residential area. You’ll be able to see that thing from over at the new courthouse.”

The new courthouse is located two blocks east, across Highway 395.

This will be Nextel’s fourth attempt in four months at locating a cell phone tower in the Carson Valley. In July, the county commission, sitting as the East Fork Fire and Paramedic District commissioners, shot down a similar proposal to lease space at the East Fork Paramedic Station on County Road.

At the time, commissioners said they couldn’t impose a big, ugly monopole on the surrounding neighborhood.

Nextel tried to negotiate with the Douglas County School Board for permission to build the pole near the Douglas High School football field, where it would have done double duty as a light pole and phone tower. The school board nixed it.

And on Sept. 8, the Douglas County Planning Commission flatly recommended denial of a special use permit that would have allowed an 85-foot monopole at the Milky Way Farm north of Minden, on Heybourne Road.

Holler says the difference with the latest proposal is that the pole would only serve one company, meaning it only needs to rise 75 feet at most. Plus, the county could use it and would gain $500 a month for the life of the lease.

Wilson vowed to call the other town board members, get their opinions, and let the county commission know what the board thinks on Thursday. He said the town board can’t afford to wait until the plans for the pole itself are forwarded.

“By then it might be too late to stop it,” said Wilson. “The people wouldn’t like that. It’s up to us to protect their welfare. All we can do is go in there and hopefully being good neighbors, the county will listen to us.”

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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