Cell tower approved for San Marcos residential area

SAN MARCOS —City Council approved the installation of a 35-foot-tall AT&T cell tower off of Golden Eagle Trail in a residential area at its Oct. 22 meeting. 

Citing concerns about the tower’s proximity to nearby homes and the existence of another cell tower on the same site, residents came before council with two appeals requesting the reversal of the city Planning Commission’s approval of the cell tower project on Sept. 3.

“You’re my last hope in stopping a decision that will change my neighborhood’s character,” said Elliot Herman, one of the residents who submitted an appeal. “The next time it could be in your backyard.”

AT&T representatives asserted that analysis of multiple sites throughout the San Elijo area revealed that the Golden Eagle Trail site is the best location for a new tower needed to fix the cell phone reception gap in that area.

AT&T first applied to install a cell tower in the San Elijo area in 2008, originally off of Deadwood Drive. But after city reviews of the project and opposition from residents, AT&T submitted a second application in December 2012 to install a tower off of Golden Eagle Drive, which would be located farther away from homes than the Deadwood Drive site.

AT&T applied to install a cell tower that would be disguised as a fake tree and plant several trees around it to help blend in.

Already at the site is a 30-foot-tall T-Mobile cell tower, also in the form of a fake tree.

T-Mobile was also responsible for planting tall trees around the tower, but so far, the trees haven’t filled in at the site.

“We’re going to set a precedence for a cell farm,” said Eric Clifton, another resident in the area.

Residents and council members took issue with the fact that city staff has not enforced T-Mobile’s requirements to plant tall trees around the tower and adequately conceal the cell tower.

“We already have this T-Mobile site with conditions and we haven’t kept after on that…We have dropped the ball on this, too,” said Mayor Jim Desmond.

Ultimately, council voted to deny the residents’ appeals 4-1 against the project.

But, they also added several conditions to the project, requiring AT&T to work with a licensed landscape architect and arborist to maintain numerous trees that will survive and grow tall at the site, and pay for maintenance of nearby roads leading to the tower site.

City Council directed staff to look into how the city could restrict the number of cell towers built on the same residential property.

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