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County Responds To Cell Phone Tower Concerns

As prompted by a Grand Jury report, San Mateo County Board of Supervisors consider adjusting fees for cell tower applications.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and county staff are considering amending the rules that regulate cell phone towers, as recommended by a County Grand Jury report.

County Manager David Boesch has authored a response to a report from the Grand Jury that the Board of Supervisors is set to approve at its meeting tomorrow morning in Redwood City.

The county is considering revising its fee structure in order to recoup costs related to processing applications requesting to either build a new cell tower or renew the permit for an existing one, according to a report detailing the county's response to the Grand Jury report.

Companies wishing to renew the permit for an existing tower must pay about $4,000, and approximately $5,500 in order to build a new cell tower, according to the county's report.

These fees may fluctuate depending on the complexity of the application, according to the county's report.

But according to the Grand Jury, those fees may not be enough. Its report recommends that, if necessary, the county may need to increase fees in order to recoup cost for staff to review the applications.

And though, according the county's response, the feeling is that the current fee level is justified, the county's Building and Planning department is considering implementing an additional cost of living expense to applicants.

The proposed additional cost of living increase is to be discussed at tomorrow's meeting.

Cell phone towers have become a hot button issue locally, as portions of communities across San Mateo County have protested their introduction into local neighborhoods amidst concerns regarding health and complaints of visual blight.

Tension surrounding the issue heightened when Sprint filed a lawsuit against the county over the denial of an effort by the cell phone service provider to renew a permit for an existing cell tower in a residential neighborhood in unincorporated San Mateo County.

The Board of Supervisors justified its decision to reject Sprint's application to renew a 10-year permit by siding with residents in the neighborhood surrounding 1175 Palomar Drive who disliked the 28-foot tower.

The . It was discussed at a Board of Supervisors meeting in closed session last month, but no reportable action was taken.

Last week, T-Mobile elected to discontinue its attempt to build a cell phone tower in San Bruno after residents near the proposed location raised concerns about potential health risks caused by exposure harmful radio frequency emissions.

More than 400 people signed a petition brought forth by one San Bruno resident who opposed the tower being built in his neighborhood.

According to findings by the Grand Jury, there are more than 450 cell towers in San Mateo County. And towers in 18 of 20 cities in the county have face opposition of some sort from communities surrounding their location since 2006.

However, the same report finds that 12 of the 20 cities have benefited from receiving leasing revenues related to cell towers.

The Grand Jury report said that though most local residents appreciate the increased level of cell phone service that can be produced by upping new cell towers, most do not want them built in their neighborhood.

The report describes such attitude as a "not in my backyard" approach.

The county's response to the Grand Jury report agrees that there is no correlation between any existing policy or ordinance and the likelihood that any local community would resist the application to build a cell tower in a nearby location.

The county's response to the Grand Jury report is set on the meeting's consent agenda, which means it will not be discussed before being approved unless a member of the Board of Supervisors or a resident requests it be addressed at greater length.

The San Mateo County Board Of Supervisors meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the County Government Center in Redwood City.

Kevin Barile August 09, 2011 at 05:31 PM
As a tower developer, I agree that we should pay our fair share. It takes a lot of work to review a cell tower application. www.ridanindustries.com
Jan McCormick August 09, 2011 at 06:30 PM
Maybe each of us that have a cell phone for convince or just to have one should give up this power so we don't have a tower here and there. A phone that does not work because there are no towers is worse than NOT having a phone. If you have an emergency and the phone that we pay many dollars to use does NOT work because we have no towers is false security. People in "not my back yard" should give up electric lights as I hate those ugly wires and poles that people post yard sales signs on. Let us all go back to candles and the dark ages.. Cheaper any way..

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