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Cell towers To Sprout Along Highway 49

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Planning Commissioners Thursday approved all but one of a series of Cingular Wireless communications towers along Highway 49 in Calaveras County.

Eight towers with 96 antenna panels will be scattered along the Highway 49 corridor and range in height from 45 to 100 feet.

Commissioners last month delayed the tower decision to add a requirement to Cingular´s permit. The requirement said Cingular must allow other companies to attach antennas to Cingular´s in a reasonable and economically viable way to limit the number of towers popping up in the county.

Two towers were opposed by residents, but only one tower was denied.

The proposal for towers on Magers Way in San Andreas and Miwok Trail in Mokelumne Hill met resistance from residents who live in those areas.

Despite a plea for denial from Mokelumne Hill resident Mike Strobel, commissioners approved the tower on Miwok Trail. Unlike the approved towers, the one on Magers Way has no trees surrounding it.

“None of the people want to see this cell tower,” San Andreas resident Brian Ames said.

Ames and his wife, Stacy, who was pregnant at last month´s hearing and had newborn Trinity in tow Thursday, own a home on Magers Way. It hasn´t been proven that the towers don´t cause health problems, Brian Ames said. Stacy Ames testified that her neighbor, David Dornan, “said he would fight it too if it was one of us putting the tower up because he wouldn´t be getting paid.”

David Dornan owns the property where the tower would have been placed. Dornan said he would have received $500 a month from Cingular for the lease of his land. “One property owner may profit while the rest of the property owners suffer,” San Andreas resident Harleigh Winkler said.

The commission decided there was enough opposition to the tower and denied it, citing aesthetic reasons. “Life´s too short to go around with a frown,” Commissioner Mike Dell´Orto said to the residents.

Strobel was not as lucky. When Strobel spoke about the negative impact the Miwok Trail tower would have on him, commissioners told him to deal with Cingular.

Strobel´s concerns were the same as those of the other residents who testified. “It´s a similar issue. Almost identical,” Strobel said.

Commissioners voted 4-1 with Commissioner Susan Kuehl in opposition to approve the tower. When Strobel questioned why commissioners were ignoring his concerns, they told him he could appeal their decision to the Board of Supervisors. Ron Mauck, Cingular Wireless agent, said it´s uncertain whether Strobel will be able to see the tower from his property.

After the hearing Thursday, Mauk visited Strobel´s home and agreed to run some tests to determine if Strobel will be able to see the tower.

Work on the towers will start this week and is projected to be complete by the end of December, Mauk said.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news,