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Monterey denies remaining small cell facility locations

During a well-attended meeting that ended just short of midnight, the Monterey Planning Commission on Thursday denied the one remaining small cell facility being proposed for Monterey’s Monte Vista neighborhood.

That’s because questions remained about the location, which is adjacent to 277 Mar Vista Drive and 7 Cuestra Vista Drive, and its suitability as the best place for the personal wireless antenna.

The decision came in the wake of last week’s decision by ExteNet, the subcontractor of Verizon that develops the cellular facilities, to withdraw 12 of their proposed 13 applications for such facilities after the city’s planning staff recommended denial of 10 of the 13 projects.

“They felt that because it was a single facility proposed that it didn’t need to be located within a residential zoned district,” explained Senior Associate Planner Todd Bennett, “and that it could potentially be located in a commercial zone and could still provide benefits to the Verizon network to alleviate some of the existing workload.”

Bennett also said that Planning Commission members had questions regarding the aesthetic concerns raised by many residents and that the equipment that supports the antenna could be underground rather than placed on the existing utility pole.

“They thought more research should be done as it related to its placement,” said Bennett. “Overall, they just felt that there was an alternative location that was going to be a commercially zoned property that would still provide the benefits to the existing network and as proposed the small cell facility had aesthetic impacts that could potentially be mitigated by under-grounding the available equipment.”

Thursday night’s decision came at a meeting where dozens of those in attendance spoke including Bill Hammett, an independent engineer of San Francisco’s Hammett and Edison hired by ExteNet to do evaluation and the company’s External Relations Manager Joseph Camicia.

That’s after months of debate and public concern over the potential environmental safety of the next generation cell antennas.

“The Planning Commission did a remarkable job of saving the city from the planning staff,” said Monterey resident Mike Pekin, who has been outspoken on the subject from the start.

Bennett said that if the decision last night is appealed it will go before the City Council in an April meeting.

For its part, ExteNet executives have said the technology is needed to improve services and allow future expansion and that such cellular infrastructure is required to keep up with the increasing number of connected devices and data-driven interactions. That’s while the Federal Communications Commission has ruled that the health risks associated with the cell sites are well within acceptable limits.

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